April 5, 2006

Chinese police probe discovery of 121 skulls

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police said on Wednesday that
121 skulls found in the isolated western province of Gansu were
human and had been hacked from their bodies after death, Xinhua
news agency reported.

The skulls, wrapped in a plastic bag, were found on March
26 by a herdsman in a ravine in an outlying mountain area of
Tianzhu Tibetan autonomous county, a source with the Ministry
of Public Security was quoted as saying.

Local police initially suspected that the skulls belonged
to monkeys, after a preliminary analysis of fur, hair attached
to the skulls and their shape.

"But forensic experts from prestigious Lanzhou University
(in Lanzhou, capital of Gansu) said the skulls were human after
they examined 13 samples," Xinhua said.

The skulls were both male and female and belonged to old
and young, Professor Chen Shixian, a forensic expert hired by
the police, was quoted as saying.

He dismissed rumors that the skulls had been dumped by
hospitals after doctors had removed the brains for medical

Investigations showed no signs of "medical expertise" in
the decapitations, Chen said, adding that they had also found
no signs of fatal injuries.

Police said they were investigating the origins of the
skulls, and where and how the decapitations had taken place.