BC Coroners Service launch new tool to identify remains of unknown burials

Creators hope the software will bring closure to families

A headstone at Mountain View Cemetery. Photo by Jennifer Blake
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Reported by Jennifer Blake

The BC Coroners Service is using new interactive software to identify remains from many of the 250 or more unknown burials at a local cemetery.

On March 14, Mountain View Cemetery announced on their Facebook page that the coroners service is actively working to identify many of these bodies with the use of new technology and police records.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said they hope to reach out and engage the public with the new tool, which is easily accessed online.

“It’s our hope to gain new investigative leads that will lead to the identification of these unidentified individuals and bring closure to their families,” Lapointe said.

Later this month, the BC Coroners Service will launch the Unidentified Human Remains Interactive Viewer.

The application is a web-mapping application which contains information on every active unsolved unidentified human remains investigation in the province, just under 200 cases with the oldest case dating back to 1953.

From professionals to the public

Andy Watson, manager of strategic communications for the BC Coroners Service, said the viewer is something that can be used by professionals involved in the investigations as well as members of the public.

“This is a tool that could be used by anyone,” Watson said.

The viewer provides a visual overview of the approximate location where the remains were found and a summary of the key information related to each unresolved case in B.C.

The application is intended to facilitate collaboration between the public, municipal police forces and the RCMP.

Mountain View Cemetery manager Glen Hodges said there are unknown burials dating back to the 1800s. A large number of the unidentified remains are suspected to be homeless people with no identification and bodies that washed up on Vancouver’s shorelines.

“When someone dies in the city and they don’t know who they are, there’s no way to access any funds or anything,” Hodges said. “So [the body] automatically become[s] the responsibility of the city or the province.”

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