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CSI officers mill around as the boat on which 15 bodies were found is inspected at Back Bay, Belle Gardens, Tobago, yesterday.

Loyse Vincent

Tobago police will now have to depend on technology to help unravel the mystery behind the 14 bodies and skeletal remains found on a fishing boat found floating off Belle Garden two weeks ago.

Last week, police said a cell phone found on the boat was registered in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

During a media conference yesterday, senior police officials said forensic pathologist Dr Eastlyn Burris had completed the post-mortems and estimated the time of deaths at between two weeks to one month. Twelve of the bodies have been positively identified as males while the genders of two others were undetermined due to advanced decomposition.

But ACP William Nurse said exposure to the elements took a toll on the remains and Burris could not indicate the cause of death.

“The findings were deemed undetermined but the possibility of hypothermia and dehydration were possibilities she would have raised, remains would have been taken to the Forensic Science Centre for further analysis to determine cause of death,” he said.

Burris’ findings discredit the belief that the boat, pulled to shore by Belle Garden fishermen, was the same boat with dead bodies on board spotted in Guyana’s territorial waters in February.

Lead investigator on the case, Sgt Keith Roberts, said samples of teeth, hair, bones and a liver have been sent to the Forensic Science Centre for further analysis. He also said cash and other valuables were found on the bodies.

“Upon further examination at the Scarborough Mortuary, 1,000 Swiss francs were found and 50 Euros. Also, seven cell phones were recovered from clothing. There were several layers of clothing, these cellphones recovered in the clothing were removed during the post mortem.”

Roberts said the items were only discovered during the post mortems as the bodies had several layers of clothing. According to Nurse, reports indicate that the cell phones were fairly modern and well protected.

“One of the cell phones was an Apple iPhone and the cell phones were found in waterproof and well-protected pouches, so we expect to learn quite a lot from their contents.”

Nurse said there were no other signs of violence and the likelihood of a robbery was unlikely due to the cash and cell phones found on the bodies. However, a toxicology report has been commissioned to rule out all other possibilities.

Nurse said the Cyber Crime and Social Media Unit is also analysing the contents of the cell phones to provide more information about the origin of the vessel and identities of the persons on board.

Although Tobago police have yet to make attempts to communicate officials in Mauritania, Nurse said once the Cyber Crime and Social Media Unit probe is complete, the information will be compiled into a comprehensive report that will be sent to the Commissioner of Police for further action through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.