ORGANS and human tissue have been kept by West Yorkshire Police following police investigations into murder or suspicious deaths.
Now the force has apologised to the concerned families.
An audit has found 31 cases where the force retained significant tissue. As well as organ, some small tissue samples such as slides with microscopic amounts of tissue have also been identified by the audit.
The revelation came after all forces were requested to conduct an audit of human tissue retained in relation to suspicious deaths.
Nationally police forces have 492 whole organs or ‘significant’ body parts held on police premises, hospital mortuaries and other establishments. Some relate to historical cases going as far back as 1960.
West Yorkshire Police say that early investigations suggest that some of the families of the deceased may be unaware of the retention.
Assistant Chief Constable Jawaid Akhtar, who has led the local audit, said: “Our main concern now is to ensure that the families concerned are immediately visited by specially trained Family Liaison Officers so we can explain to them personally what has occurred and offer our support and assistance.
“This will include establishing the families’ wishes as to how the samples should now be dealt with, ensuring this is done with dignity and sensitivity.
“I and Her Majesty’s Coroners have written personally to explain and to apologise to each of the families concerned.
“My first priority is to do whatever we can to assist and support the families in delivering what may be distressing news.”
A national audit of mortuaries in 2010 highlighted tissue from homicide cases was still retained, sometimes years after the post mortem or coroner’s inquest.
As a result every police force in the country was asked to conduct a comprehensive check of all police premises, mortuaries or other relevant places to identify retained tissue.
Police and coroners would retain human tissue and other body parts in the case of a suspicious death.
During the post-mortem examination, conducted to establish the cause of a death, certain tissue may be removed from the body by the pathologist for further investigation such as toxicology, histology and examination by other experts.
These further examinations can sometimes take weeks to conclude and West Yorkshire Police say “every effort” is made to return them to the body for cremation or burial.
But in some cases that has not been possible, yet families may not have been aware body parts were missing.
In the 50 years to 2010, there were more than 6.2million coroner authorised post-mortems.