Recovery of body parts resonates in England

Workers preparing to empty out a storage locker in Dartmouth recently made a discovery that has piqued the interest of police in Britain.

A Dutch doctor who formerly worked in Halifax for two years had rented the storage locker. The rent was overdue, so the landlord was going to auction off the contents. But when one of the boxes broke open, workers made the grisly discovery.

Halifax police say 12 boxes contained pig parts. A 13th box however, held eight organs from one or two children about five years of age.

Dr. Dick Van Velzen owns the boxes. He was a pathologist at the IWK Grace Health Centre in Halifax from 1996 to 1998. He was fired, and the hospital won't say why. He left another hospital across the ocean under another cloud of suspicion. Van Velzen worked at the Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool in the early 1990s.

He was accused of keeping organs from more than 800 children whose autopsies he performed. The children's parents didn't know, and didn't consent.

So when people in England heard about the Halifax storage locker, the phone began ringing at Ian Cohen's office who currently represents about 250 families in England who had children at Alder Hey.

"The major concern is whether or not these organs do in fact relate to children who were at Alder Hey," Cohen said. "It puts quite a lot of pressure on British authorities to consider criminal proceedings."

British police have contacted police in Halifax about the latest find. Van Velzen, now in the Netherlands, says in a statement that police are mistaken about the contents of the box. He says they are biopsy samples.

But police are charging him with offering an indignity to human remains and have issued a warrant for his arrest.