Falkland Islands' Chief Police Officer Superintendent Jeff McMahon is heading an inquiry to find the remains of Argentine soldiers who are still unaccounted for and maybe in unmarked interments in the north of East Falkland at a place called Teal Inlet.
Supt McMahon currently with his family in Standish, England, was interviewed by Charles Graham, from Wigan Today, and said that investigations are at an early stage, but credible evidence has been presented which suggests up to 20 bodies were interred near the Teal Inlet bay. A 50 by 50 meters space has been marked for possible diggings in the future.
It has been alleged that the fallen soldiers were interred near to a site where medical waste - included severed combatants’ limbs - was buried, and while it was done with dignity and a religious ceremony, no markers were put there, and if any documents were sent back to Britain describing the site, then they have so far failed to surface.
So part of Supt McMahon’s inquiry is to appeal to veterans of the South Atlantic conflict and any other witnesses to come forward with information that might corroborate the claims - or otherwise.
The 1982 conflict ended with an Argentine surrender on June 14, returning the Islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three islanders died during the hostilities.
But not all of the Argentines fallen have been accounted for. Some 125, until recently mostly unidentified soldiers, are buried at the Argentine Military Cemetery, an official site in Darwin near Goose Green. Argentine politicians and a few families are content for the bodies to remain in the Islands, not least because the Argentines continue to regard it as home soil. But that is not going to stop further inquiries’ taking place if evidence of the graves supports them.
According to McMahon, “Last October a retired Marine medical officer contacted the Governor of the Falkland Islands and reported that several burials of British and Argentine casualties took place at Teal Inlet and these men remain in situ.
“There was a British burial site at Teal Inlet. The witness claims he did not know where this British site was and only learned there was an official one in 2020. This is commemorated by a plaque.
“He claims a military digger arrived on-site, dug a trench and this was used to dispose of body parts removed during surgery at a field hospital set up at Teal Inlet.
“The trench was also reportedly used for burials. All this took place in the final two weeks of the Falklands war, from June 4 to June 14 1982. For some reason, though the area was not marked and if a paper record was made then it does not appear to have got back to the UK.
“The majority of casualties arriving at Teal Inlet were from the final iconic battles - such as Mount Harriet, Tumbledown and Wireless Ridge - which took place from June 11 onwards. Both Argentine and British casualties were treated at the field hospital.
“Detectives have spoken to several witnesses who corroborated some of the original complainants' information. From work so far there is no indication any British casualties were left behind or unaccounted for.”
There is only one Argentine listed as being buried at Teal though: Ramon Quintana.
Retired Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo led a team in 1982/3 to locate and exhume Argentine dead; who were all otherwise interred at the Argentine Military Cemetery at Darwin. Quintana too was exhumed and reburied.
Investigations continue to locate a possible site at Teal Inlet and the Royal Falkland Islands Police are engaging with the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) for advice and support. ICRC is involved in ongoing identification work of unidentified Argentine combatants buried at the Military Cemetery in Darwin.
Supt McMahon said: “It remains speculation at this stage but there is a possibility that there is anything between two and 20 Argentine bodies at Teal Inlet.
“There are probably families in Argentina who were told their sons were missing in action who have accepted they are in unmarked graves or the one bearing the plaque at Darwin.
“Identification back then wasn’t helped because the Argentine soldiers didn’t have decent ID, although in 2017 DNA testing on remains took place at the Argentine military cemetery Darwin, helping to identify some 115 bodies.
“As far as Teal Inlet is concerned, we have narrowed down the area where the bodies would be to a square of about 50m by 50m. There are processes to go through but we will probably eventually bring in diggers in then ground-penetrating radar.”
McMahon added that the purpose of the search “is humanitarian, to continue the work that goes on in terms of processing casualties. It is an extension of exhumations that took place in 1982-3 and further bodies were found in the mid-90s, and 115 so far identified in 2017. It is a recurring pattern that will go on far longer than this.
“They are still finding bodies in France dating back from the First and Second World Wars. “And if bodies are found at Teal Inlet and there are surviving Argentine relatives, they will want to know. With advances in DNA technology, there is a better than ever chance of identifying fallen soldiers and giving families some peace of mind.
“Ultimately what happens to any recovered bodies could be up to surviving family if DNA links can be established. ”
Anyone with information can ring the Royal Falkland Islands Police on 00500 28100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org