Police launch investigation into body part discovery
Procedural errors by police could have led to a human body part being removed and destroyed before officers arrived to seal off the area where it was found, a senior officer said today.
The body part – believed to be a finger or toe – was discovered by a member of the public at a car park off Court Street in Hamilton.
It is understood the person who made the discovery yesterday alerted police.
But the individual left the scene with the evidence before police arrived.
The body part was later taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital and incinerated by staff.
A senior police officer admitted that the member of the public who made the 911 call may not have been told what to do.
Acting Assistant Commissioner Sean Field-Lament said an internal investigation had been launched.
He added: “If we need to learn lessons, we will.”
Mr Field-Lament said: “Right now, were still endeavouring to understand how we got to this position.
“Ideally if a member of the public comes across something that is suspicious, they should leave it in situ, call 911 and say ’Hey, I’ve found something, I think the police need to come and check it out’, and we would have gone along, preserving the scene, taking photographs, things like that.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have happened in this situation.
“We’re still trying to work our way through the fog of war to really understand how an item gets to be on Court Street and then gets to the hospital and gets to be incinerated.
“This shouldn’t have happened.
But Mr Field-Lament added: “Now is not the time to blame. If we need to learn lessons, we will.
“We’ll make sure that, if there’s a gap in our procedures, we’ll amend the policies and provide the appropriate training.”
The Bermuda Hospitals Board has also launched an investigation into why the evidence was destroyed.
A BHB spokeswoman said: “Preliminary findings indicate that what appeared to be part of a human digit was brought to the hospital by a member of the public.
“No notice, direction or advice from the Bermuda Police Service was forthcoming.
“When forensic evidence is handled by the hospital, BPS liaises directly with BHB.”
Although detectives do have a photograph of the body part, inquiries will be hindered by a lack of evidence and foul play cannot be ruled out.
But detectives believe the find is not related to any missing person investigations – including the case of Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, who disappeared last April.
Mr Field-Lament said: “Initially, there was nothing to indicate that this was a crime scene.
“We’re still trying to ascertain the facts. We have an open mind as to where this may lead us.
“I don’t want to close any doors that we haven’t fully investigated, but at present we don’t believe this is related to a crime.
“We have a photograph of the item. It is in a decomposed state but it’s not in respect to a long term missing person, where you would expect a lot more decomposition.
“The only really outstanding missing person is Chavelle. I know people are going to automatically draw lines along that line but we’re not in that place.
“I would say that, from the photograph, this is not related.”
Mr Field-Lament said that there had been no reports from KEMH or members of the public having suffered an injury that could be linked to the discovery.
He said one line of investigation being looked was that the body part could belong to a homeless person.
Mr Field-Lament added: “Our initial hypothesis is to deal with the vulnerable group and possible medical implications – maybe diabetes.
“We want to ascertain the facts and get to the bottom of what happened.
“If there was a crime we’ll deal with the crime. If there is a vulnerable person that needs help, then we’ll get them that help.”
He said: “We’re doing all our best to investigate backwards from it.
“We’re going to be seeking expert medical advice and opinion on the content of the photograph and try to piece together what we can from what we have.
“We just want to clarify what took place and reassure the public that there’s no significant criminal activity that’s taken place.
“What this is all about is that there are people out there, possibly a person out there, who knows how this item got to where it is.”
Anyone with any information that could help the inquiry should contact Acting Detective Inspector Lennox Ince on 295-0011 or 211.