Each year since July 2015 for mysterious reasons journalist Patrick Lancaster finds bones at a field which was searched thorough by Dutch and Malaysian recovery team in April 2015.
In summer 2017 he found bones and small pieces of wreckage. He handed these over to the mayor of the area. At October 5 2017 the bones and wreckage was handed over in Donetsk to Dutch authorities.
The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice will examine the bones to see if these are of humans and if these are of passengers onboard MH17.
The frequent finding of bones raises many questions.
In this blogpost I will investigate these mysterious findings of bones.
This is a long blogpost. I will first start with a summary.
- If the July 2017 bones are indeed of humans, it is extremely likely someone dropped these at the field.
- A Dutch led recovery mission started at April 15, 2015 and lasted till April 30 2015. The goal was to find all remaining human remains at two burned sites near Grabovo. A burned site is an area of the crash site where after impact of the fuselage a large fire started.
- Despite the cleaning, freelance journalist Patrick Lancaster shows in videos he founds bones in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He found these bones at the surface of exactly the same field which was cleaned by the recovery team in April 2015.
- Patrick Lancaster is covering the DPR side of the war in Eastern Ukraine. He is the only journalist who found multiple times bones at the same location.
- An expert who examined photos showing the bone fragments found in July 2017 stated these are likely from animals. Probably remains of slaughter.
About Patrick Lancaster
It is important to understand who Patrick Lancaster is and what kind of information he distributes on this Youtube channel.
Patrick Lancaster is a freelance journalist from the United States. He has been reporting in Eastern Ukraine since a couple of years. His Twitter bio reads “Crowdfunded journalist covering the Ukraine war on the DPR side of the frontline longer then any other western journo”
The ‘on the DPR side’ is extremely relevant to understand his work. Lancaster is not the main stream journalist who might have a little bit of bias. Lancaster is extremely biased. Anything which is bad for Kiev and Ukraine he will happily report on.
On the photo below he is seen standing next to another freelance journalist Graham Phillips. Phillips is notorious for his pro Russia, pro DPR/LPR reporting. The men in military uniform are separatists.
Lancaster told a Dutch journalist that he showed Dutch freelance journalist Spekkers around when he visited the crashsite. Spekkers found a bone, took it to the Netherlands and handed it over to the police. The bone was from one of the MH17 passengers.
After this article was published, Michel Spekkers approaced me on Twitter. He stated that, out of securiry reasons, he never provided the names of the people who showed him around the crash site.
About remains of wreckage
Lancaster in all his videos states the investigation by the Dutch has not been done properly. His argument is that still small pieces of the aircraft are in the area.
Those pieces are small parts of the cabin, aircraft frame or fuselage.
What Lancaster fails to understand and mention is that these small parts of the aircraft have no value for the investigation into the cause of the crash. The cockpit and first part of fuselage have been transported to the Netherlands and reconstructed.
Dutch Safety Board concluded the aircraft was shot down by a surface to air missile. The wreckage still in Ukraine does not have any value not will it change the conclusion.
We know have a clear understanding of the position of Lancaster and his way of reporting.
Overview of findings of bones
First an overview of the recovery of human remains after the bodies were recovered shortly after the crash.
In April 2015 a Dutch recovery team went to Eastern Ukraine. They carefully investigated a piece of land at the villafe of Grabovo. The area searched was about the size of a football field. This area was where the main fuselage impacted. As there was a lot of fuel in the tanks, a large fire started.
This is the BBC item which shows how and where the recovery team operated. The screenshot below shows part of the area which was searched for human remains. The house in the background is Grabovo.
Fast forward to July 2015. For the first time since the MH17 crash a ceremony was held in Grabovo. Dutch reporter Jeroen Akkermans a day before the ceremony noticed that there were many bones in the field. He reported this to the mayor. The next day the bones were gone.
Journalist Patrick Lancaster was in Grabovo as well at that time. In this July 10, 2015 video report Lancaster states there are still many human remains at the crash site. He points to what appears to be a bone and states “We see a human bone still remaining right here”. To me it is not clear if this indeed is a human bone.
Lancaster at no time in the video states the same area he is walking around has been centimeter for centimeter searched by the Dutch recovery team in April 2015. At 2:30 he states “there has not been a thorough cleanup yet”
I asked Lancaster on Twitter about his statement. Lancaster repeated “Recovery mission done in April 16-April 30 2015 was not thorough. All earth in that spot should have been completely filtered in screens”. He also Tweeted “Look at the mud in the investigation photos,now look at the size of some of the pieces found latter. How could 10000s that size all be found”
In a video recorded at July 17, 2015 Lancaster states that bones he reported a week ago to the authorities were removed. At 09:58 in the video, Lancaster finds three pieces of bones.
The bone shown in the Lancaster video very much resembles a bone shown on a picture part of a story by Jeroen Akkermans. Akkermans was told by experts this bone belonged to a pig. See the almost square bone in the middle of the photo shown below.
Analysing the July 2017 bones
Patrick Lancaster in July 2017 reported he again found bones at the burned site. In August 2017 he collected the bones and handed these over to the mayor of Petropavlivka.
The photos below show the bones found. These are pictures taken by Lancaster.
I contacted an expert (which wants to remain anonymous), showed him the photos and asked if he could determine if the bones are human or from animals. The answer of the expert was:
“Although there is no reference scale visible in the photo, so the size of the bones is a guess, I can say that most of the material is for sure from animals. (likely leftover from slaughter)”
In September 2o17 Russian and DPR media started to report about the handover of the bones. It took quite a while to hand over the bones, which happened early October 2017. Russian media suggests the bones were from humans.
Tass reports at September 5.
“Our personnel collected the remains, honoring the rules of criminal procedure, and they have been examined. The results showed that some of them may be human remains,” the Donetsk News Agency reported citing the prosecutors.
Analysing the location where Lancaster found bones
Now let us have a closer look on where Lancaster found the bones in summer 2017. The exact location is indicated in the picture below.
Lancaster in this July 10 2015 video is roughly walking in the area indicated by the black box. The small village of Grabovo is in the background.
Now we have a clear picture of where Lancaster made his video, lets have a look at the area where intensive search was done for humans remains in April 2015.
The recovery mission started at April 16. Dutch media at April 19 reported that a lot of human remains were found. Efforts of the first day were concentrated on two scorched land areas where the bulk of the debris had fallen out.
The team leader of the recovery mission told they would search centimer for centimeter. And would dig up to 30 centimeters deep. Due to the intense heat, remains and pieces of the aircraft could be melted into the soil.
In this Volkskrant article published April 30, 2015 head of recovery mission Aalbersberg is quoted:
De plekken zijn afgelopen twee weken alsnog afgezet met rasterlinten en daarna verdeeld in vakken van vijf bij vijf meter. Visueel zichtbare materialen zijn door forensisch experts ‘opgeraapt’. Vervolgens is de grondlaag tot 60 centimeter afgeschraapt en forensisch onderzocht op menselijke resten.
It says the soil was was scraped up to 60 centimeters and forensically examined for human remains.
In a BBC item we can see reporter Tom Burridge almost at exact the same location as Patrick Lancaster was walking three months later. See the village of Grabovo in the background. Notice the leaning pole in the background.
This video at 30 seconds shows the recovery mission working at the burn site at Grabovo.
When we stich together a screenshot of the Lancaster video made in July 2015 (left) and the recovery mission in April 2015 we can clearly see a large area was searched.
The green circle shows the same house.
Dutch citizen journalist Max van der Werff made this video of the recovery mission. People are hand searching the area near Grabovo. Max filmed with his back facing towards Grabovo. The leaning pole is a good landmark for orientation.
At April 22 2015 mission leader of the recovery Aldersberg says there are two burn sites being searched. A small one sized 45 by 80 meters and a large one sized 100 x 100 meters. The recovery of the small burn sized is done. On both the small and large burn sites human remains were found. At the large burn site the search could not reached deeper areas due to weather conditions. (source)
A few days later, at April 25,26 and 27 2015, there were digging activities at the large burnsite. Locally the digging was till 50 cm deep. This took place at locations were the soil structure was disturbed. At these location indeed human remains were found. The recovery team manualy did the sieving of the soil at April 25,26 and 27.
A relative small number of small bones and personal belongings were found deeper in the soil until about 40 cm. This was at locations were pieces of wreckage penetrated the soil. Human remains were always found next or under pieces of these wreckage.
The recovery mission was finished at April 30, 2015.
After the recovery mission, the field looks like this. This photo was made May 16, 2015. Notice there is a piece in the field which can also be seen in the Lancaster July video.
In January 2017 all of a sudden Dutch freelance journalist Michel Spekkers finds a bone. The bone was found in the shed in Grabovo. The bone was investigated in the Netherlands and turned out to be of one of the victims. Patrick Lancaster told a Dutch journalist he showed Spekkers around at the crash site.
Dutch minister Blok on February 16, 2017 stated that based on watching of a video recording made by Spekkers it is certain no more human remains are at the crash site. Blok writes in a letter to the Dutch parliament in spring a new recovery mission will start. However that never started
“Twee rechercheurs zijn bijna een volle dag bezig geweest om al het door Spekkers gefilmde beeldmateriaal te bekijken. Op die beelden zagen zij geen menselijke resten. Eén van de zaaksofficieren heeft ook een deel van de beelden bekeken en ook zij nam op die beelden geen menselijke resten waar. Anderszins konden de uitlatingen van Spekkers ook niet worden bevestigd.” (source JIT magazine)
I am wondering how two police investigators can conclude based on video recordings there are no human remains left at the crash site. At the time of the visit of Spekkers there was a layer of fresh snow at the field as the photos below show. The image below shows an article published in NoordHollands Dagblad. The photos are made by Spekkers.
In his July 2017 video, Lancaster again shows bones. He found some at the burned site next to Grabovo. He also found one in a shed at Grabovo. The same shed as where Spekkers found a bone in January 2017.
Lancaster is this video, as in all videos, stresses the Dutch investigators did not do a proper investigation and should collect the bones. He talks about evidence not collected.
So how can bones all of a sudden appear?
Experts say that due to the impact of the aircraft and the intense heat, bones were split in many small parts. This makes the recovery more difficult. It could also be that small pieces of bones are in deeper layers of the soil.
Jeroen Akkermans found in July 2015 dozens of bones in the area of the burn site near Grabovo. As you can see on the photo, at least one bone has burn markes. His report is here.
I asked Lancaster if he had an explaination why these bones all of a sudden frequently appear on the burn site. Once removed, new bones appear. Lancaster believes that for example a tractor could have ploughed the field.
To a Dutch journalist Lancaster has another explanation. He states that just a small area of the crashsite was digged out. It was difficult due to the wet weather to sift the small parts of bones from the soil. Also grazing by cattle and erosion is a reason the soil structure changes.
In this video, recorded in July 2017, Lancaster tells the area was a dead zone. He tells “for the first two year this area was not able to grow, grass or anything like that.
So a farmer using a tractor with a plough seems an extremely unlikely cause for bones to all of a sudden appear from the soil. I asked severall reporters who have visited the same area. They told me the field is not used to grow crops. Sometimes a few cows are grazing. On all of the video’s of Lancaster there is no sign of any ploughing nor intention by farmer to start growing crops.
Lancaster in a response to this blogpost responded at Twitter and did a comment on this post (see below). Basically he states the bones he filmed in July 17 have been there since he first filmed at July 10, 2015. So what he says is that bones surfaced between April 30, 2015 when the recovery team left the area, and July 10, 2015. He stated on Twitter “As I said, in July the area was very dry so small pieces could be seen. In April ground was wet.”
I am unable to find any plausible reason for bones buried as deep as 40-50 cm all of a sudden surface without any likely cause.
This lady who lives in Hrabovo and observed the crash of MH17, states in this video make by Patrick Lancaster that the soil at the crashsite is such that grapes did not grow for three years.
It once again confirms a tractor ploughing the field and thus making bones visible is an extremely unlikely reason for bones to appear at the crashsite.
Extremely likely reason for bones appearing all of a sudden
So there must be another reason for the bones at the burn site. Seeing the position of Lancaster as a supporter for DPR and his constant flow of propaganda , it is very well possible someone dropped bones at the field. And Lancaster came to film it.
While it cannot be excluded that Lancaster indeed found human remains, it is impossible these all of a sudden disappeared from the soil. If DNA tests show bones were of MH17 passengers, extremely someone dropped these.
We have to wait for the results of the DNA investigation by Dutch authorities. It is remarkable that Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice did not announce yet the results of the investigation into the bones.