Forensic investigators call on relatives of missing in Attica wildfires to provide DNA samples


The head of the Greek police’s crime lab is calling on the relatives of missing people from the east Attica wildfires to provide DNA samples so that forensic investigators can complete the process of identifying dozens of victims.

“We have already identified the first group of charred bodies via DNA analysis and have informed the fire department, which, in turn, informed the relatives of the victims. Nevertheless, we still have a lot of DNA samples that have not been matched, so we’re calling on people looking for relatives to come forward,” Police Major General Penelope Maniati told Kathimerini on Thursday.

“We want to complete the process as fast as possible. Some of us have friends and relatives among the missing, so we know how the public feels. No one can put more pressure on us than we are already doing ourselves,” she added.

Investigators had confirmed the identities of 83 victims from Monday’s fire in east Attica by Thursday. The process of identification began immediately after the first charred bodies started being recovered from the fire on Monday night and Hellenic Police (ELAS) chief Constantinos Tsouvalas ordered the formation of a disaster victim identification (DVI) team.

“We called an emergency meeting in the late hours of Monday at headquarters and immediately dispatched two officers to the location to assess the situation,” says Maniati. “They told us that the situation was very serious as soon as they got there and that there would be a large number of victims, so we had to be prepared.”

Forensic experts from ELAS were dispatched to the Athens Morgue the following morning to start the identification process.

“We use the same methods applied by Interpol, so that even positive identifications are cross-checked with DNA analysis, because visual recognition is not considered a reliable method,” she says. “In the 2007 fires [in the Peloponnese], for example, a mistake had been made and a woman from Albania was buried in Sparta, while a Spartan woman was sent to Albania.”