Family of Dublin plane crash victim in the dark over her remains

Edel Mahady

The family of an Irish woman killed in the Malaysian air crash are still waiting for information on her remains.

Edel Mahady from Dublin was one of 298 people killed in the MH17 disaster.

It comes as it is reported separatist rebels have taken 196 bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines crash site to an unknown location, Ukraine’s emergency services said.

Associated Press journalists saw the pro-Russia rebels putting bagged bodies on to trucks at the crash site yesterday in rebel-held eastern Ukraine and driving them away.

This morning, journalists saw no bodies at the crash site and emergency workers were searching the sprawling fields only for body parts. No armed separatists were seen at the site.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile on Thursday at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000ft above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny the charge. All of those on the plane – 283 passengers and 15 crew – were killed.

Ukrainian Emergency Ministry spokeswoman Nataliya Bystro said today that recovery workers in the rebel-held territory had been labouring under duress and were forced to give the bodies to the armed gunmen.

“Where they took the bodies – we don’t know,” she said.

Separatists were not immediately available this morning to comment on her statement. News reports of how the bodies had been decaying for days in the summer sun had ignited outrage worldwide, especially in Holland, home to over half the victims.

Alexander Pilyushny, an emergency worker combing the crash site for body parts this morning, said it took the rebels several hours to take away the bodies. He said he and other emergency workers had no choice but to hand the bodies over to the rebels.

“They are armed and we are not,” Mr Pilyushny said. “The rebels came, put the bodies on to the trucks and took them away somewhere.”

Neither Ms Bystro nor Mr Pilyushny could explain what happened to the 102 bodies of plane victims that have not yet been recovered. Earlier, the Ukraine government claimed it had reached a preliminary deal with the separatists to remove the bodies.

The US has pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jet was probably downed by an SA-11 missile from rebel-held territory and “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel”.

The latest US intelligence assessment suggests more than one missile system was given to the separatists by the Russians in the last week or so. But both Russia and the rebels vehemently deny any role in downing the plane.

Despite calls by world leaders for an independent, international investigation into the incident, armed separatists limited observers’ access to the crash site on Friday and Saturday.

“We have to be very careful,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the 24 international monitors. “We are unarmed civilians so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.”

The US State Department described the rebels’ refusal to give monitors full access to the site “an affront to all those who lost loved ones and to the dignity the victims deserve”.

Despite the restrictions seen by journalists and observers at the crash site, separatist leader Alexander Borodai insisted the rebels have not in any way interfered with the work of observers.

The Dutch led the way in outrage over how the victims’ bodies were being treated.

“The news we got today of the bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly, has really created a shock in the Netherlands,” Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told the Ukrainian president in Kiev yesterday. “People are angry, are furious at what they hear.”

Mr Timmermans demanded that the culprits be found.

“Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed yesterday in a phone call that an independent commission led by the International Civil Aviation Organisation should be granted swift access to the crash site.

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