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Quest to identify bodies washed up in the Caribbean

Their boat had set sail from Mauritania

Police in Trinidad and Tobago have told the BBC they are still trying to discover the identities of 15 bodies found in a Mauritanian boat that washed up in the Caribbean nation in May.

It’s believed they were attempting to get to the Canary Islands in order to get to Europe, when the boat was blown off course.

It may have been floating in the Atlantic Ocean for about two months before it was found.

William Nurse, the assistant commissioner of Tobago’s police force, is one of those involved in the investigation and was part of the team which found the skeletal remains on the vessel.

“It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever seen in my 38 years as a police officer,” he told the BBC’s Newsday presenter James Copnall.

“I asked myself… what were they trying to escape from? Where were they trying to go? What was their life before they left their country of their origin?

“The boat was a large boat with a very small Yamaha engine and very little fuel, so there was no way they could have made that journey based on where they started to where they wanted to go.”

He says investigators have been able to collect some fingerprints and their cyber unit has gathered information from seven mobile phones found on the boat.

This information is being shared with officials in Mauritania as part of efforts to identify them.

He added that this was not an isolated incident – and he had heard of other lost boats crossing the Atlantic – one turning up in Turks and Caicos and another in Honduras.

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