Warrants issued in body parts probe

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Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Thai police have issued arrest warrants for two Americans who attempted to mail a preserved baby’s head, foot and other human body parts to the United States, saying the objects were stolen from a Thai medical museum.

The bizarre case has quickly gained international attention, with Thai police asking Cambodian authorities to help locate the men, who travelled to the neighboring country on Sunday, and the FBI helping with the investigation in the US.

Police questioned Ryan McPherson, 31, and his friend, Daniel Tanner, 33, in Bangkok over the weekend but released them and allowed them to travel to Cambodia.

New evidence then emerged after their departure, prompting the arrest warrants to be issued on charges of theft, possession of stolen items and falsely declaring items on shipping documents, said police Major General Sombat Milintachinda, the head of Bangkok’s police investigation bureau.

“Our evidence indicates that they either stole the body parts, or they bought them from other people,” he said. “We have to bring them back for more questioning.”

It was apparently not the first brush with notoriety for McPherson and Tanner. Photos of the two talking with police on Sunday closely resemble men by the same names and ages who were producers more than a decade ago of a video series featuring homeless people brawling and performing dangerous stunts after being paid by the film-makers, who were based in Las Vegas.

The “Bumfights” videos were banned in several communities and generally shunned by retailers after criticism that the films’ subjects were being exploited.

The case of the human body parts emerged over the weekend when parcel delivery company DHL said it scanned three US-bound packages labelled as toys and detected five human body parts.

DHL alerted police who tracked down the senders, McPherson and Tanner, and took them in for questioning. They told police they had bought the body parts at a Bangkok night market – an infant’s head, a baby’s foot sliced into three sections, an adult’s heart with a stab wound, and two slices of tattooed skin. The objects were preserved separately in acrylic boxes with formaldehyde.

The men told police they thought the items were “bizarre” and “wanted to ship them to friends to surprise them”, Maj Gen Sombat and other police said.

But new details surfaced yesterday when one of Bangkok’s biggest hospitals, Siriraj Hospital, said the body parts had been stolen from its anatomy museum and its forensic medicine museum – which the two men visited last week.

Surveillance video showed the pair at the registration counters of both museums on Thursday, the same day police said they arrived in Thailand, said Udom Kachintorn, the medical dean at Siriraj Hospital.

The theft charge carries a jail term of one to five years or a fine of up to 10,000 baht (£195), while the false declaration charge carries a penalty of six months in jail and a 500,000 baht (£9,715) fine.

All three packages were being sent to Las Vegas, including one that McPherson had addressed to himself. Police said they contacted the FBI to get information about the would-be recipients of the items.

In Washington, FBI spokeswoman Minique Crump said they were aware of the matter and looking into it. In Las Vegas, FBI spokeswoman Bridget Pappas also said investigators were trying to determine whether laws had been broken by the Americans.

Published: Tuesday 18th November 2014 by The News Editor

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