'No evidence' 43 Mexico students incinerated: Independent probe

Experts Francisco Cox, Claudia Paz, Carlos Beristain and Angela Buitrago, of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pictured before presenting the first conclusions of their investigation, in Mexico City on Sep 6, 2015.
Experts Francisco Cox, Claudia Paz, Carlos Beristain and Angela Buitrago, of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pictured before presenting the first conclusions of their investigation, in Mexico City on Sep 6, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - An independent probe into the disappearance of 43 Mexican students concluded on Sunday that they could not have been incinerated in a landfill, refuting the government's official investigation.

The investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said in a nearly 500-page report that a fire expert found "no evidence that supports" the government's account.

The attorney general's office concluded late last year that municipal police in the southern city of Iguala abducted 43 young men and handed them over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

Citing confessions from gang members, then attorney general Jesus Murillo Karam said the students were killed and stacked in a funeral pyre that burned for 14 hours before their ashes were thrown in a nearby river.

The charred remains of only one student were identified in a bag found in the water.

But the commission recruited a Peruvian fire expert who concluded that it was impossible to have burned all of the students in the landfill in Cocula.

Mr Jose Torero, a Peruvian-born professor at the University of Queensland in Australia, wrote that such a blaze would have consumed vegetation and trash around it, but only evidence of small fires were found.

It would have required 30 tonnes of wood, 13 tonnes of tires and 13 tonnes of diesel to cremate so many bodies, and the process would have taken 60 hours, Torero concluded.

"There is no evidence indicating the presence of a fire of the size of a (funeral) pyre for the cremation of even one body," Torero wrote.

After a six-month investigation, the commission's report raises questions about the official account of a crime that sparked protests and caused the biggest crisis of President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration.