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Procedures ‘not followed’ at bone unearthing

Forensic work: human remains were found Tuesday by West End Construction on West End Development Corporation property at the West End Sailboat Club on Watford Island, close to the 19th century Watford Island Military Cemetery. During the 19th century, servicemen and convict labour were buried there between 1848 and 1900

Human remains would not have been unearthed in the West End if proper procedures had been followed, an island conservation body said yesterday.

A spokesman for the Bermuda National Trust said that the charity was concerned about the excavation carried out at the West End Sailboat Club in Somerset.

He said that the unearthing of the remains “demonstrates why it is in everyone’s interest to follow planning regulations and rules”.

The spokesman added: “This incident highlights the need for following procedures when human remains are discovered.”

He said that human remains were protected under the Coroners’ Act and Public Health Act.

The spokesman added: “Had the proper procedures been followed in this case, this tragic incident would have been avoided.”

He said the trust believed the remains were probably from unmarked convict graves outside the eastern boundary of the Watford Island Military Cemetery.

The graves date from between 1848 and 1863.

The spokesman said the top of the hill was established as a military cemetery in 1880, and was now cared for by the trust.

He said the surrounding area was the property of the West End Development Corporation.

The spokesman said the area was identified as a burial site after an archaeological assessment was carried out by the Bermuda National Trust Archaeological Committee in 2004.

The hillside was later designated as an Historic Protection Area.

He explained: “As such, any excavation or work in this area should only have been carried out with planning permission and following guidance from the relevant heritage professionals.”

The spokesman said the trust and the National Museum of Bermuda expected to take possession of the human remains, which “will receive an archaeological assessment and will then be interred with respect and dignity in the military cemetery”.

He added: “The National Trust intends to engage in constructive discussions with other stakeholders to prevent a repetition of this incident in the future.”