Mass grave containing 200 people slaughtered by Spanish dictator Franco is discovered - as scientists take DNA swabs to identify them
- Three pits have been discovered in the central Spanish city of Valladolid, and archaeologists believe there are several more
- It is thought there could be more than 2,000 mass graves across the country
- The Mayor of Valladolid, Oscar Puente said: 'This is a question of national dignity and human rights rather than opening the wounds of the past'
- After Franco died, a law was passed pardoning the crimes committed under his dictatorship, meaning the graves lay untouched for eight decades
A mass grave filled with the skeletons of men and women executed during Spain's brutal civil war and the ensuing General Francisco Franco dictatorship has been uncovered - and experts believe it is one of more than 2,000 across the country.
Work has begun on forensic analysis that may identify the dead, after three unmarked pits containing 185 bodies were found in the central Spanish city of Valladolid.
It is thought the city's cemetery could contain up to 10 similar mass graves, with the victims among the estimated 100,000 who forcibly 'disappeared' during the 1936 and 1939 civil war, and Franco's subsequent regime.
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People would have been tried by a kangaroo court and then executed, according to the architect leading the project in Valladolid, in central Spain
Biologist Aida Rodriguez, from the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid (ARMH-Valladolid), exhumes one of the three mass graves in the central Spanish city
Archaeologist Gonzalo Saiz holds up a human skull which was found buried in an unmarked pit in Valladolid
Authorities in Valladolid have paid 25,000 euros (£22,000) on employing a professional team to examine the site. with work starting in April.
Mayor Oscar Puente said: 'This is a question of national dignity and human rights rather than opening the wounds of the past.
'We could not simply look away.'
The city 'could not simply look away', said Mayor Oscar Puente as an excavation of the graves revealed up to 200 skeletons, with many more likely hidden below the ground
A member of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid (ARMH-Valladolid) removes a bullet from a human skull during the exhumation of the one of the three mass graves
In 1977 Spain passed an amnesty law pardoning the crimes of the Franco regime, and the mass graves were left undisturbed.
But there is a renewed interest in facing up to the country's past.
Archaeologist Julio del Olmo said victims were executed following judgment in kangaroo courts, or slain in small groups and tipped into the pit by truck.
After General Franco (above) died in 1975, a law was passed pardoning the crimes of his regime. As a result, no detailed work was carried out to find out who was buried in mass graves across the country
Archaeologist Julio del Olmo said it is 'unforgivable' that it has taken this long to examine the mass graves
Around 200 bodies have been found in the mass graves in the central Spanish city, as Spain comes to terms with the crimes committed in the civil war, and the ensuing years of the Franco regime
He said: 'It's unforgivable that this is being done now and not then.
'Just 25 years ago the widows, who suffered the most from this loss, were alive. Now they're all dead. The only children alive are the youngest.
'That is something to which all the governments of this country have been impervious.'
Boxes containing human remains are piled in a garage after being recovered by a team examining the three mass graves
Some of the people discovered in the pits had been wearing decaying leather boots
Some of those discovered in the pits were wearing decayed leather boots.
Radar pulses are being used to find more unmarked mass burial sites.
The bodies were found interspersed with crumbly white soil, the quicklime that was spread on the recently executed to prevent smells and prevent disease. Even so, slaughter on such a grand scale must have reeked, said del Olmo.
Fernando Serrulla, forensic anthropologist member of the Aranzadi Science Society takes a saliva sample from Julia Merino for a DNA test during the exhumation
The remains of bodies have been collected during the exhumation of three mass graves in the central Spanish city of Valladolid
A human skull is found inside the mass graves, which have remained untouched for more than eight decades
So far only a handful of mass graves across the country have been dug up and documented.
Abilio Perez, a sprightly octogenarian former bar owner, tended the unmarked area above the graves alongside his wife for six decades, leaving flowers on All Saints' Day and marking off the area with four iron rods and chains.
A priest told a relative that the bodies of his wife's father and brother were dumped there after being executed by Franco's forces in the autumn of 1936. But he was told for years by authorities that nothing was there.
'We put a cross there, but it was taken away,' he said.
Julio del Olmo, archaeologist member of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid (ARMH-Valladolid), digs to open one of the three mass graves
Archaeologist Marta Escribano exhumes one of the grave as authorities endeavour to discover more about the people killed during the civil war and under the Franco regime
One of the mass graves which was discovered in Valladolid. They had been untouched for eight decades before the excavation work began in April
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