Interesting article ww.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/nov/17/chesil-beach-seagul-unidentified-bodie Mystery of Mr Seagull highlights tragedy of hundreds of bodies still unidentified Chesil Beach corpse still not named six years on Missing persons bureau aims to solve riddles * Steven Morris * guardian.co.uk, Monday November 17 2008 00.01 GMT * The Guardian, Monday November 17 2008 * Article history Chesil Beach The body of the man dubbed Mr Seagull, washed up on Chesil Beach (above) has still not been identified. Photograph: Ben Pipe/The Travel Library/Rex Features At first glance the object looked like a mannequin that had washed up on the shingle. It was only when the couple taking a wintery walk along Chesil Beach in Dorset came closer and shooed away the seagulls gathered nearby that they realised it was a human body. Six years on the mystery of Mr Seagull, as the dead man was dubbed, remains unsolved. No loved ones have come forward to claim the body and police officers, a coroner and investigators of missing people have been unable to discover the man's identity. The charity Missing People has launched a fresh appeal to try to identify the man, hoping that they can bring closure to a family or friends who must still be wondering what happened to him. But the case has also highlighted the great number of unidentified bodies that are found in the UK each year and the failure so far to keep a nationwide record. The Guardian has learned there are at least several hundred, and perhaps even as many as 1,000, unidentified bodies in churchyards, crematoria and morgues that have been found but not identified in the UK over the past few decades. A new national missing persons bureau opened in April to try to improve the way the authorities manage missing people inquiries. One of its first jobs has been to find out how many unidentified bodies there are - and attempt to match them with records of missing people in Britain and abroad. Early next year, police forces will also be given new protocols on how to deal with bodies that turn up on their patches to make them easier to identify. Cases like that of Mr Seagull are particularly curious because there seem to be enough clues to identify him. The body was found on Chesil Beach on November 3 2002. Initially, he was thought to be a white man aged 30-50, and at least 6ft (1.8 metres) tall. Later DNA tests established he was probably of south-east Asian origin. He had curvature of the spine, which meant he might have walked with a stoop. He had a scar on his top lip and a broken nose. He was wearing Marks & Spencer jeans. It was believed he had died two weeks before his body washed up. Appeals were made at the time of the discovery and then a year later to mark the first anniversary. A sketch was drafted but by the time Mr Seagull's inquest was heard in 2004 he remained unidentified. Recording an open verdict, the West Dorset coroner, Michael Johnston, said it was difficult to understand why he had not been reported missing. He speculated that he may have been pushed overboard from a ship. "But unless something else transpires we shall never know," he said. Another four years on and nothing has transpired. Teri Blythe, head of the Missing People's identification bureau, said it was surprising the case had not been solved, not least because of his distinctive features - including his height. She said: "It is likely that this man will have family and friends out there who do not know his fate." They are not the only family. Missing People's database of unidentified people features more than 100 cases. For some it is clear why nobody has come forward. Witness the case of a man found in south-east London in August last year. He had swallowed 2kg (4lb) of cocaine and is believed to have been a drugs mule. Or an Asian man whose body was found in a service station in Cambridgeshire in 2006. He was trying to smuggle himself into the UK in the back of a lorry. In other cases, though, investigators are disappointed that bodies with distinctive features remain unidentified. For example, a man found dead in woodland in Northampton in 2006 was wearing a bracelet decorated with patterns of wheat and grapes. It was established that he had followed a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. But his identity remains unknown. Blythe said the cases highlighted by Missing People were just the "tip of the iceberg". Until this year there was no genuinely national police missing persons' bureau. Rather, details were collated by Scotland Yard and other police forces collected which stored information in different ways. After a review, the National Police Improvement Agency was given the job of running a national bureau from Bramshill in Hampshire. One of its first jobs has been to try to draw up a list of all unidentified bodies and body parts in the UK. Joe Apps, the manager of the bureau, said it was not yet possible to give a figure but he indicated that it ran into the hundreds. As well as making sure the way police forces collect data is more uniform, the bureau is also trying to forge better links with international police forces and agencies. One of the problems with cases such as Mr Seagull's is that the tidal patterns around the UK, especially in the Channel, mean that bodies could wash in from around the world. The bureau's task is a difficult one. And for now Mr Seagull's body is to be found in a grave in the corner of a cemetery in Weymouth, while somewhere, friends or family wonder what happened to him. If you have any information regarding the identity of Mr Seagull or any other of the cases mentioned, call the confidential 24-hour charity Missing People on freefone 0500 700 700 or email email@example.com For more information on Missing People please visit missingpeople.org.uk Chesil Beach is about 17 miles from our house.