31 March 2010
Sean Flynn’s remains found?
Forty years ago next week, Sean Flynn (the son of Errol) and colleague Dana Stone, disappeared without trace in Cambodia. It is almost certain that they were murdered by the Khmer Rouge.
According to the Independent forensic tests are to be performed on remains found in rural Cambodia by two amateur "bone hunters" that are believed to be those of Flynn and Stone
The remains handed over to the US authorities in Cambodia were found by Briton Keith Rotheram and Australian David MacMillan more than two weeks ago. Reports say they were alerted to the location in Kampong Cham province in eastern Cambodia by a local man who claimed to have been a witness to the execution of a tall, blond foreigner. The witness claimed the foreigner had been forced to dig his own grave before he was battered to death.
The two men hired bomb disposal experts, a bulldozer and teams of local people to excavate the site in the village of Phka Dong, where they uncovered clothes, bone fragments and teeth. Mr Rotheram, who runs a guesthouse in the town of Sihanoukville, refused to answer any questions about the discovery, the full story of which, he said, would "be for the highest bidder".
The excavation of the site has been criticised by a colleague of the journalists who has led the search for them almost ever since they went missing. Tim Page, a British photographer celebrated for his work in Vietnam and other conflicts, said he believed a number of other foreign journalists may have been executed and buried at the same site.
Mr Page said he had led an excavation of the same site last year and found glass vials, bone fragments and teeth that he had handed to JPAC, along with GPS co-ordinates. He said it was vital a thorough examination of the site be conducted as local people claimed it held the remains of more than one foreigner killed by the Khmer Rouge.
"I have had hundreds of people contact me over the years about Sean and I'm always interested in what they have to say," Mr Page, who now lives in Brisbane, told The Australian. "But there is a very strict procedure to be followed when digging at a site of possible human remains, and in this case that has not been followed... It was not a forensic dig. They used an excavator and uncovered a full set of remains, which they removed from the site."
Sean Flynn was the child of the famed leading man and his first wife, Lili Damita, a French actress who spent huge sums of money to search for her son after he disappeared. Eventually, the photojournalist was declared officially dead in 1984, more than a dozen years after he was seized at a checkpoint and handed over to Khmer Rouge rebels. His mother died in 1994.
Flynn and Stone went missing on 6 April 1970, the former on assignment for Time magazine and his colleague for CBS News. The two men were part of a larger group of journalists who had driven out of Phnom Penh on Highway One, heading toward the Vietnamese city then called Saigon, for a press conference organised by the government. One of the last Westerners to see the men was Stephen Bell, a reporter with ABC News. Mr Bell said:
"Afterwards we all headed back to Phnom Penh, but they said they wanted to go forward. They had heard there was a checkpoint that was manned by the Viet Cong. It was thought that you could see the Viet Cong there," said Mr Bell, who took a photograph of the two men as they set off on what would be a final journey. "We headed back to Phnom Penh and no one ever saw them again... I think they were among the first to go missing. It had not reached the point where we knew quite how dangerous it was."