Weeks before bodies home
Bodies arrive in Netherlands for identification before being repatriated. Picture:Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Soldiers will accompany one of the largest Australian Federal Police deployments since the Bali bombing as officers investigate the MH17 disaster, the Prime Minister revealed today.

Up to 90 AFP officers are in Europe under a Dutch-led investigation and Australia is close to finalising an agreement with the Ukraine for the deployment of Australian police, some of whom will be armed, to the investigation.

A further 100 AFP officers would be be sent to Europe while details are determined.

News of the increased deployment emerged today at a press conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and and AFP Commissioner Tony Negus.

Mr Abbott said: “Previously undiscovered wreckage has been found and I regret to say more human remains have been found and we expect that further remains will be found in the days ahead."

He said this made it more important than ever to properly secure the site.

Mr Abbott said some Australian Defence Force personnel would accompany the police, but this did not make it a military operation.

“This is a police-led mission,” Mr Abbott said. “It would be an international police-led mission and it's a humanitarian mission to ensure that we bring (the crash victims' bodies) back.”

Mr Negus said this would be one of the largest delegations of AFP officers since the Bali bombing.

Investigators have found new pieces of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and more bodies away from the initial crash site in eastern Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Michael Bociurkiw told ABC news the piece of fuselage that was found "appeared out of nowhere".

It was found in a heavily wooded area and there was no indication that a piece of the plane was there.

He said the discovery of more human remains meant it was crucial that the scene be properly secured and searched.

Australian officials are relying on the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine to act as an intermediary with rebels, who control the region where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed a week ago.

Mr Bociurkiw confirmed two Australian diplomats and one forensic expert visited the site yesterday with his team.

It's believed the forensic expert was from the Australian Federal Police.

"It looks like they're sussing the security situation and then possibly coming here," Mr Bociurkiw said.

"The Australians are getting a sense of the security for the area, they're mapping it, they're getting a sense of where the crash sites are."

Mr Bociurkiw said two or three more Australian officials were expected to join the inspection team today.

Mr Bociurkiw told the ABC: ""I think this is the part of the plane that came down which ... travellers would say resembles an airline. The windows were still in tact and if one wanted to they could even climb inside and be covered."

The new discovery comes as families of MH17 victims were warned that it could take weeks before the bodies of their loved ones are finally returned home.

The grim task of forensically identifying some of the remains has already begun inside makeshift morgues set up at a military base outside the town of Hilversum, near Amsterdam.

Authorities have vowed to complete the work as quickly as possible but retired WA Police superintendent Hadyn Green, who helped run the victim identification operation in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, said the identification process was complex and could be frustratingly slow for families who were desperately waiting for answers.

FULL COVERAGE | LEAVE YOUR TRIBUTE | PARENTS PUSH ON TO CRASH SITE

"They (the forensic teams) will be starting to go through the bodies and body parts looking for anything to physically identify them such as fingerprints, tattoos and scars and evidence of past medical procedures such as titanium hips and pacemakers that could help to identify the individual," he said.

"Then to corroborate that initial information they will be sending samples off for DNA analysis, which unfortunately takes time.

Apiece of wreckage showing apparent shrapnel damage.

"The other issue they face over there is that they are not only dealing with bodies but also many parts of bodies. It is slow and harrowing work."

In Perth, State and Federal police and staff from the State Coroner's office are expected to start as early as today what is known as the "anti- mortem" process - visiting families to collect information that could assist with the identification process.

Grief counsellors will accompany police as they interview relatives about their loved ones' physical features and collect personal items from homes such as hairbrushes or clothing that contain DNA or fingerprints.

"It is an awful thing for families to have to go through but it has to be done to give investigators something to compare DNA samples against," Mr Green said.

"They (police) should also be explaining to the families that it can be a very slow process."

Forty bodies were flown out of Ukraine on Wednesday night aboard Dutch and Australian military planes.

The same two planes were to fly into Amsterdam again overnight with about 70 bodies.

It is believed the remains of about 200 passengers had been recovered from the crash site.

Mr Green said the delays in recovering the bodies would make identification harder but by no means impossible.


The West Australian

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