Bones May Be Those of Photographer, Pair Claim

A British and an Australian na­tional claimed over the weekend that they may have found the re­mains of photojournalist Sean Flynn, only days before the 40th an­niversary of his disappearance while covering the civil war in Cambodia.

The US Embassy said yesterday the men had handed over the “possible human remains” on Friday for further testing by the US Defense Department agency tasked with accounting for military personnel believed missing in action.

Sean Flynn, son of the Australian Hollywood film actor Errol Flynn, and fellow war photographer Dana Stone disappeared on April 6, 1970, after the two men left Phnom Penh and headed by motorcycle toward Vietnamese troops who were operating around National Road 1 inside Cambodian territory. Flynn and Stone were captured and eventually turned over to the Khmer Rouge.

But the details of their deaths and captivity are largely unknown. Their bodies were never found and some have speculated that the men survived until 1974. The enduring mystery surrounding their deaths has led to several books about the fate of the men, and a film company has purchased the rights to the book “Two of the Missing,” which is being developed into a movie.

Keith Rotheram, who owns the Golden Rooster Resort in Preah Sihanouk City, said yesterday that he could not yet give any details on his excavation activities in Kom­pong Cham province. Asked if he thought he found the remains of Sean Flynn, he said, “possibly.”

Asked if the remains had been collected in a scientific manner, Mr Rotheram said, “of course. How would you otherwise find a West­ern body in the middle of the jungle?” He then hung up.

Choek Sa, governor of Kom­pong Cham province’s Memot district, said the men had conducted excavation work in Ponla village, Triek commune, in his district, located on the border with Viet­nam, adding that they had received permission from local authorities to conduct their excavation research and had been escorted by local police.

Kompong Cham provincial po­lice chief Nuon Samin said the men had hired local villagers to dig up the possible remains and sift through the sand.

“They paid the local workers to dig in the soil to find the bones,” he said, adding that the men had used a group of about 10 local workers to dig at various sites in Ponla village for about a month.

According to an article published Saturday by the British newspaper The Daily Mail, Mr Rotherham, a Briton, and David MacMillan, a Scottish-born Austra­lian, “hired bomb clearance ex­perts, a bulldozer and teams of local workers to dig at a site where a witness described a tall, blond West­erner matching Sean’s description being executed in 1971.”

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said by telephone that the two men had visited the embassy on Friday and that the remains “were turned over to JPAC and sent to the US for further testing,” he said, referring to the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, a Defense De­partment office responsible for accounting for US service personnel who are unaccounted for.

According to The Daily Mail, the remains found during the dig, which was reportedly partially funded by Flynn’s half-sister Rory, included bone fragments, teeth, clothes and jungle vines used to tie up a prisoner. In the article, Mr MacMillan claimed an unnamed expert had told him, based on photographs of the found teeth, that the teeth showed evidence of mid-20th century dental work.

US MIA officers visiting Cam­bodia in March 2001 said that without a location on where the bones were retrieved, or other de­tails regarding the circumstances of death and identity of bones, identifying remains was very difficult.

“That’s why we pass word to each of the provinces…don’t dig up the remains. Leave them there,” Lieu­tenant Colonel Jeffrey Smith said during an interview.

According to a statistical report from January of the Defense Department’s Prisoner of War/ Missing Personnel Office, 59 Americans, military personnel and civilians, who went missing during the war in Vietnam still remain unaccounted for in Cambodia.


Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.