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Thread: Investingating possible war murders 65 years later

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    Default Investingating possible war murders 65 years later

    Has anyone had any experience with reopening an investigation into possible cases of murder from the war? For those who have been following my threads on Halifax NP709, it appears that two of the crew may have been killed by the Gestapo - something not even hinted at in the MRES reports, even though it mention interviews with "officials" in October 1945.

    65 years later, would anyone in the RCAF or the government do anything about it, or is it too long ago and too common a thing to warrant the effort? I'm sure at this point the evidence would be too hard to discover but I was curious if any cases have been pursued well after the fact.
    David

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    I am not aware of any allied war crimes investigations in recent years, Canadian or UK and I believe that there will be little appetite to look into something (when nearly evidence is lost and witnesses dead) after this amount of time.

    What evidence do you have? PM me if you wish and I will give you my 'unofficial' professional opinion.

    Rgds

    Jonny
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    Thanks Jonny, I will PM you, but for the group I will say, the person who researched this in Germany has several eye-witnesses to the crash, one of whom clearly remembers having seen the two airmen alive. Their accounts, and the memories of others who were obviously quite young that day, differ from the explanation in the MRES reports, which were largely conjecture, based on some interviews done in October 1945 of local "officials".

    I am not suggesting this should be done, I was just curious to know if it has ever happened based on information brought to light in later years.
    David

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    If you could exhume these two bodies (which I very much doubt if you ever will ) and carryout a forensic post mortem on them and found that both had been shot in the nape of the neck in an execution style by a small calibre bullet, and not from multiple crash/large calibre injuries, then you could make an assumption that they had been executed/murdered. Any other small calibre injury could be explained away.
    Assuming and proving of course would be two different matters. Again assuming that the two political authorities would ever let you near enough to get an investigation going.
    Stewart

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    Hello,

    I'm not an expert myself in this subject, but for what I've seen, forensic examinations were already carried out when bodies were exhumed in the immediate post-war years, for identification needs. I think the forensic examiners would have seen it then.

    In the case of identification of a Free French pilot (S/L FAYOLLE, KIA at Dieppe), the forensic examination carried out in the 40es (on what was then an 'unknown') was used in the 90es, to check with his French medical file (no exhumation was done), together with archives matching and elimination process. This confirms my opinion that these examinations were quite precise for the time.

    It's my impression that the U.S. documents (Individual Deceased Personnel File) are more complete, at least for those accessible to researchers like us, as I've never seen similar sketches and medical description in Australia "casualty files".

    Joss

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    One of the contentious issues in Steve Darlow's Flightpath To Murder was that the exhumation of Bill Maloney did not determine whether a rifle shot to the head had killed him as there was no evidence of the shot due to extensive damage caused by repeated rifle-butt blows to the head. Of course this only related to determining the cause of death as it was clear he had been murdered.

    It might be worth dropping a line to Steve for any advice he might have from his recent experiences?

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    One of the questions here is the quality or extent of the forensic work by the MRE Unit. They were trying to identify bodies, not solve murders, so who knows what they might have seen and not recorded in the exhumation reports? We are trying now to find out what's in the personnel files of the crew, who were all RCAF. The one or two reports I have seen only refer to examinations of the bodies, they don't appear to be the exhumation reports themselves but one of us is going to Ottawa to check.

    The other problem is that the bodies were exhumed and concentrated to the larger cemetery in October 1945, almost a year later, so the condition of them might have been an issue, although I suspect not if it was clear they had been shot and were otherwise intact.

    I was wondering if anyone knew of any cases that had been pursued many years after the fact, so I will check out those references. Thanks.
    David

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    All of the MREU reports that I have seen in RCAF files contain basic information on the physical remains i.e. what was found, the condition and any identifying features or articles. The examinations were not conducted by forensically trained medical examiners. I think we need to be realistic about what was being done by the MREU teams after the war. They were there to put a name to the remains, liaise with the Army Grave Concentration Units and find the missing. Many of the bodies that were exhumed had been in the ground for a long time and many were badly mutilated. There was a large degree of confusion, sometimes a wall of silence and none of the personnel who made up the teams were trained 'investigators' (most were ex aircrew who were re-employed). I have worked on mass grave sites and without being too graphic, there can be remarkably little left of a body that was buried in acidic soil or quick lime, even for a short period. Conversely, of course, some look like they were buried yesterday. Not pleasant work and I take my hat off to them.
    In fond memory of Corporal James Oakland AGC (RMP), killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 October 2009. Exemplo Ducemus.

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    Hi
    Not sure how much I can help but I'm happy to field some questions.

    From my research it came clear that the Canadian political will to investigate war crimes began to wane considerably a few years after the war. Some cases were investigated extensively and led to prosecutions, but many many others were opened and had to be abandoned. Germany was chaotic, split into four zones, Canadian investigators wanted to return home after a long war (which also led to problems at trials), and finding reliable witnesses was very difficult indeed. Indeed finding and identifying perpetrators was equally difficult. There were well publicised trials (such as that of Kurt Meyer) which showed that the Canadian government was holding people to account for atrocities against Canadians, but the desire for justice and retribution steadily lessened until it no longer was seen as an issue. In my opinion, for what it is worth, I doubt after a further 60 plus years if this situation would be different.

    Quite a lot of this is detailed in my book 'Flightpath to Murder' (see www.stevedarlow.co.uk) but could I also recommend Patrick Brode's 'Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgements', published by the University of Toronto Press.

    Steve Darlow

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    Thanks Steve, I will certainly check out both references and thanks for the insights.

    As you say, I doubt anyone would have any great interest in pursuing it now, but the fact that the possibility of murders was raised by a German researcher is notable. It sounds, in my case, that the men, if they survived the crash and were captured by the SS, may have been shot and then discreetly laid with the rest of the crew for burial the next day. The story says that the bodies were all brought to the local clergy for burial by the German authorities.
    David

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