Initial analysis suggests that human remains unearthed by amateur adventure seekers in Cambodia last month are not those of missing war photographer Sean Flynn, a spokesman for a US military agency said yesterday.
The remains may be those of a Cambodian or someone else from the region, said US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Perry, public affairs director of the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. JPAC is the US agency tasked with finding Americans who went missing during past conflicts.
“Limited analysis suggests that they may be indigenous,” Lt Col Perry wrote in a short e-mail. He added that the bones, which will undergo further testing, “are badly fragmented due to the manner in which they were recovered” in Cambodia.
A group of self-styled fans of Flynn claimed last month to have found what may be the remains of the photojournalist, the son of Hollywood icon Errol Flynn. Flynn disappeared with colleague Dana Stone 40 years ago after the pair was captured by Vietnamese troops in Svay Rieng province and handed over to the Khmer Rouge.
Australian Dave MacMillan and Briton Keith Rotheram last month turned over a piece of jawbone, teeth and bone fragments to the US government after unearthing the remains in Kompong Cham province.
Their amateur dig for remains was sternly criticized by former colleagues of Flynn as irresponsible and self-serving, though Mr MacMillan and Mr Rotheram had the support of Flynn’s half sister, Rory Flynn.
JPAC forensic anthropologist Hugh Tuller said the “disturbed” state of the site following the private dig “could definitely affect identification” after a team from the US agency returned to re-excavate earlier this month.
Neither Mr MacMillan nor Mr Rotheram could be reached by e-mail or telephone yesterday. They have said they embarked on the dig alone because JPAC declined to help.
Tim Page, Flynn’s former colleague and friend and one of the dig’s critics, said yesterday that he would continue his own hunt for Flynn’s gravesite.
Of the remains found last month, he said, “It’s a shame it’s not Flynn.” But he added that the new test results were also gratifying, because success would have given Mr MacMillan and Mr Rotheram “more fuel and limelight.”
Mr MacMillan has said that his group is planning more excavations at possible gravesites for some of the other foreign journalists still missing in Cambodia.