• Spain's news in English
 

Spanish uni home to 250 'forgotten' corpses

Published: 19 May 2014 14:43 GMT+02:00

Spain's El Mundo described it as the stuff of nightmares, a genuine chamber of horrors, and even like something from the hit television show The Walking Dead.

Piled up in the basement of the Anatomy and Embryology department of Madrid's Complutense University are an estimated 250 corpses, leftovers from student experiments.

The bodies donated to the university are jumbled up in a room which measures around 30 square metres (323 square feet), El Mundo said.

The paper described seeing a pair of unlabelled "black feet" on the "lid of a rubbish bin", and published graphic images of the set-up showing random body parts filling the basement. Some photographs even displayed lines of "mummified" corpses lined up on a shelf.

But staff at the university told the daily the arrangements were in order.

"We are not rich and there is no health risk," department director Ramón Mérida told the daily, while admitting that some of the bodies had been stored for "up to five years".

"The member of staff who operated the (incinerating) oven took early retirement in December and we haven't been able to advertise the position because the unions say the oven is in poor condition," Mérida explained.

Those unions say the oven, installed in 1991, emits poisonous gases. They have also denounced overall conditions in the basement.

But the department director is adamant there is no danger. "Infected bodies" are "incinerated immediately", he explained.

"Everything is being fixed: the civil servant who retired early will use the 40 days a year he has to work to burn the remains and the rest will be taken to other ovens," he said.

The Complutense University on Monday also officially responded to the El Mundo piece saying a solution had been found for the problem: a funeral company would start removing the bodily remains in the next few days.

"In addition, the images (printed by El Mundo) give a distorted image of the reality," the university said in a statement, adding the newspaper had secretly taken the photographs in a restricted area.

The images of "mummies" showed body parts that were being dried before being incinerated because those remains "can't be incinerated straightaway as they contain chemical products", the university explained.

The university said it followed all protocols correctly and that it had already launched an investigation into the matter.   

While the Spanish Anatomy Society has guidelines on the storage of bodies donated to science, there is no formal legal framework.

Madrid's Health Department said its laws only dealt with burials, autopsies and the transfer of bodies, while the Education Department said universities were independent institutions and outside of their control.    

Meanwhile, the Complutense University keeps receiving new bodies — up to 50 a year.

More people are donating their bodies to science as a way of avoiding funeral costs, an added burden during Spain's crisis, Spain's El País reported on Saturday. 

The Local (news@thelocal.es)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Police manhunt: Have you seen this couple?
'Patsy' Adams and his wife Constance could be on the run in Spain. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Police manhunt: Have you seen this couple?

Police believe the notorious north London gangster Patrick Adams and his wife may have fled to Spain where they have previous links to Torremolinos. READ  

Gallery
Seven adorable animals facing extinction in Spain
Photo: Iberian Lynx Exsitu Conservation Programme / Wikimedia Commons.

Seven adorable animals facing extinction in Spain

To mark International Day for Biodiversity, The Local takes a look at some of the Spanish animals most at risk of extinction. READ  

Magaluf bans drunk badly-behaved tourists
British tourists on a night out in Puente Ballena last summer. Photo: Jaime Reina / AFP

Magaluf bans drunk badly-behaved tourists

Bare chests, sex parties, falling down drunk in the streets and balconing will no longer be tolerated in Magaluf under new bylaws. READ  

10 brilliant alternatives for Barcelona's bullring
La Monumental bull ring in Barcelona. Photo: Netraam/Wikimedia

10 brilliant alternatives for Barcelona's bullring

Since Barcelona banned bullfighting there has been much debate over what should be done with the city's famous bullring, La Monumental. Here's The Local's pick of alternative uses for Barcelona's iconic venue. READ  

Man posts sex ads to get revenge against clients
Photo: The Local

Man posts sex ads to get revenge against clients

Police have arrested a man in Castellón for allegedly seeking to get revenge against former clients by posting ads offering "free sex" with their phone numbers after the women did not renew services with his company. READ  

Elections
Traditional parties on the ropes ahead of vote
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at a PP rally in Valencia. Photo: Jose Jordan / AFP

Traditional parties on the ropes ahead of vote

Spain's indignado movement are out to conquer city halls and regional governments across Spain in elections on Sunday. READ  

Hepburn's son wed 'illegally' at the Alhambra
Left: Sean Hepburn Ferrer with his mother, Audrey Hepburn. Right: Sean Hepburn Ferrer at a UNICEF Audrey Hepburn Society Ball. Photo: Ho / Bob Levey / Getty Images North America / AFP.

Hepburn's son wed 'illegally' at the Alhambra

Sean Hepburn, son of the Breakfast at Tiffany's star, is in trouble with authorities at the Alhambra in Granada after he threw an 'illegal' wedding celebration at the scenic location. READ  

Gap widens between Spain's rich and poor
Photo: Gerard Julien / AFP.

Gap widens between Spain's rich and poor

The gap between the rich and poor of Spain has widened during the economic crisis, a new report on income inequality has confirmed. READ  

Suitcase boy can stay with parents in Spain
Adou was discovered during a luggage scan at the Tarajal border crossing. Photo: Spain's Interior Ministry

Suitcase boy can stay with parents in Spain

Adou, the eight-year-old boy who was discovered curled up inside a suitcase during a security scan, has been granted permission to stay in Spain. READ  

Man threatens to murder mother over meatballs
A man has been arrested for threatening to stab his mother because of her bad meatballs. Photo: Jose-Maria Moreno Garcia/Flickr

Man threatens to murder mother over meatballs

A teenager in Mallorca has been taken into custody by police after threatening to stab his mother because her meatballs were not to his liking. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
National
Can Edurne win for Spain in Vienna on Saturday?
Education
7 reasons for Spain's newfound love of English
Features
7 reasons why Spain's the best place on earth
National
What’s on in Spain: May 2015
National
The perks and quirks of having a baby in Spain
National
Iceland revokes order to 'kill Basques on sight'
National
Five reasons why it’s good to be gay in Spain
National
Job creation? The truth behind Spain's figures
National
Spain among ten best countries to be a mum
National
The ten greatest things about Spain (in the UK)
National
British expats fall victim to NHS clampdown
Features
Top ten: Madrid's best rooftop bars
Travel
Benidorm: Cultural wonder of the world?
National
King Juan Carlos led 'double-life' with lover
Features
Ten best UNESCO world heritage sites in Spain
Features
Happy book day! Top ten Spanish literary gifts
Features
All the fun of the fair: Seville's Feria de Abril
National
Off with her hair! Queen Letizia debuts new do
National
Barcelona bans tourists from famous market
National
Rockers pen 'We don't love Ryanair' ballad
Travel
Location tours start for 'Game of Thrones' fans
National
Top ten things to do in Castellón
First house sold by lottery ticket in Spain
National
Official: Francisco Franco was a dictator
National
Olives and vino at risk from climate change
National
Olé! Madonna orders tour bullfighting suits
National
Jihadists planned attacks in Spain: judge
Politics
Spain's 'Citizens' party fires up voters
Travel
'No pooing': village tells pilgrims in north Spain
National
Spain gets first memorial stones to Nazi victims
National
Town in shock at expat double murder
National
Brit family of four dead after Gibraltar stabbing
National
What's on in Spain: April 2015
National
Priest arrested for exorcism on anorexic girl
National
Could this be Spain's own Maggie Thatcher?
National
Spain outstrips France and Italy in wine exports
National
What country is Catalonia most like?
International
Exposed: actress who faked Oscar glory
Society
Ten phrases you'll only hear at work in Spain
National
Brooms up! Quidditch casts its spell over Spain
International
Spanish crowned world's happiest language
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,362
jobs available