Friday, June 20, 2008

Baffling foot mysteries could take a long while to solve

For those of you that are following the Severed Foot mysteries in Canada, BBC has an interesting update. As one investigator stated, this mystery will take a lot longer to solve than the forensic conundrums on CSI.

When two unrelated human feet washed up on the beaches of two small islands north of Vancouver in six days last August, a spokesman for the Mounties said the odds of it happening were a million to one. This week the number of feet found rose to five. What's going on? Police in British Columbia are confounded, saying they have never seen a case like it. The feet were all encased in trainers, and most are right feet. Police say it is not yet clear if a crime had been committed. They said they had found no evidence that the feet had been severed. DNA has been collected from the first feet, but police say that there has been no match to anyone on their missing persons database.

Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle-based oceanographer who specialises in how things float on the ocean's currents has dismissed the idea that they could have come from the Asian tsunami, because the distance is just too vast. Dr Simon Boxall, an oceanographer from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton in the UK, agrees that the feet are likely to have originated locally. Mr Ebbesmeyer was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying that when bodies decompose, they break into 10 pieces, two arms, two legs, two feet, two hands, the head and the torso. This raises questions as to what has happened to the rest of the bodies.

Police have said it is possible the feet come from the passengers aboard a small plane which crashed into the water in the region several years ago - their bodies were never recovered. To date, it has failed to match DNA samples collected from members of the crash victims' families with DNA obtained from some of the mystery feet.

Dr Joseph Finley, a physical scientist and retired special agent with the FBI, told Canada's National Post newspaper that depending on the race of the victims, the feet might belong to stowaways who hid on commercial ships heading for Alaska.

Dr Gail Anderson, a specialist in decomposition at the Simon Fraser University was quoted in the New Scientist as saying that we "know next to nothing about what happens to bodies under water." It is likely the case will remain a mystery for some time. (Link)

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