Author: By Sean Murphy, Globe Staff
WAYLAND FAMILY IS GIVEN WRONG VICTIM OF
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 1989
The parents of a Wayland woman killed in last month's jet explosion over
Scotland were stopped from burying the remains of a woman mistakenly
identified as their daughter less than an hour before graveside services
The parents of Mary L. Johnson, 25, were about to leave their home to attend
small service at North Cemetery in Wayland when two FBI agents arrived
tell them about the mistake.
The agents told Robert S. and Graceann Johnson that the remains of their
daughter were in Rochester, N.Y., where another grieving family had been
given the startling news that the body they received was not that of their
"We received word that the body was not our Mary just before the service,"
Robert Johnson said yesterday in a brief telephone interview. "We had to
accept the fact that it was just a mix-up. Just one of those things. We're
hanging tough about it."
The women were among 259 passengers and crew members killed in the Dec.
21 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Eleven persons
the ground also were killed.
Officials have determined that a bomb caused the explosion.
The misidentification came to light Saturday after the father of the New
woman arranged for a dentist to examine the body identified by Scottish
authorities as his daughter.
Robert R. Hunt, the father of Karen L. Hunt, 21, said yesterday in a telephone
interview that he had asked for the examination because of doubts raised
sister-in-law, Judy Sharest, who traveled to Scotland to accompany the
home. He said Sharest became suspicious when Scottish authorities described
scarf and jewelry said to be worn by Hunt. Family members said that Hunt
unlikely to be wearing such items.
When the body arrived in the Rochester suburb of Webster on Thursday, Hunt
said, he gave photographs of his daughter to a funeral director, who viewed
remains and reported a likely misidentification late Friday. Hunt said
the State Department, the FBI and Pan Am, all of which denied his request
a statement be issued to the families of other victims.
"I wanted word to go out to all the families that they could not assume
body sent to them was that of a family member," said Hunt. "I felt that,
every passing hour, it was more likely that some other family was burying
worse, cremating, my daughter, Karen. But the authorities said they didn't
to start a panic."
Suspicions were not confined to the Hunt family. Funeral director John
Bryant of Wayland said he developed misgivings about the identify of the
he received. "But there was no reason to do anything but assume the remains
were those of Miss Johnson," he said. "There were some doubts expressed
some, but not by everyone."
Robert Johnson said he would not fault official agencies or the airline.
grateful for their courtesies," he said.
Inspector Michael Dean of the Lockerbie police, which made the identifications,
said yesterday that an official statement regarding the bodies was expected
Kathryn Bradford, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Washington, said that US
authorities are assisting in the investigation at the request of Scottish
but she declined to comment further.
Pan Am airlines spokeswoman Pamela Hanlon declined comment.
An FBI source, however, said Scottish authorities now believe that identification
tags were inadvertently transposed before the Johnson and Hunt bodies were
flown to the United States on Thursday. The source said Scottish authorities
began an investigation Saturday based on the misidentification of the body
to the Hunt family.
British representatives were sent to the families of both victims after
mistakes were confirmed, the source said, but the agent sent to Wayland
unable to reach the Johnson home before the FBI arrived. Hunt said he
accepted ''a wholehearted apology" from a member of the London Metropolitan
Police who arrived in Webster on Sunday.
Yesterday, the body of Karen Hunt was in the custody of the state medical
examiner at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester.
body of Mary Johnson yesterday was in the custody of the Monroe County,
N.Y., medical examiner in Rochester.
A memorial service for Johnson at St. Ann's Church in Wayland was attended
by hundreds of mourners two weeks ago. A Brown University graduate, she
was returning to her parents' home for Christmas after spending 14 months
abroad, primarily spent touring India and teaching English in Taiwan. Family
members, including five brothers and a sister, were to attend Sunday's
A memorial service for Hunt, who aspired to become a journalist, was attended
at St. Paul's Church in Webster, N.Y., by more than 500 mourners two weeks
ago. Robert Hunt said burial will be in Webster Cemetery in the spring.
"Right now, we just want to get Karen back," Hunt said. "We feel the healing
process for us will be easier knowing it is our loved one lying in the
we expect to visit for many years to come."
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