MIDWAY : Severed feet

The discovery this week of a human foot off the coast of British Columbia — the fifth such find since last August — has, not surprisingly, sparked much speculation. A Seattle oceanographer, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, told the local Vancouver Sun that the finding of five human feet with no corresponding body parts is as likely as “drawing a royal flush a couple of times”.

So is some fiendish poker-faced serial killer at work? Some Hannibal Lecter figure discarding the inedible parts of his picnic lunch? Or is there a less sinister explanation?

The usual criminal motive for dismemberment is to disguise the identity of the victim and thus hinder any police investigation.

Remove the hands and you eliminate fingerprint identification.

Remove the head and there is no face to be photographed or teeth to check against dental records. But feet? While forensic scientists can now identify someone from their footprint, there is, as yet, no database of toe-prints to help the Royal Canadian Mounted Police trace their man.

The mafia’s traditional body-disposal method was a simple maritime dumping operation — “Luigi sleeps with the fishes” and so on — but more recently victims have also been fed to pigs or turned to ash in industrial incinerators. Dismemberment is rare.

Vancouver residents have their own theories, which they have been sharing with their local newspaper. “We have a serial killer out there,” suggests one blogger, asking why no one is considering what might have happened to 40 or so young men who have gone missing locally in recent months. Another theory is that biker gangs are “taking people, killing them, sawing them up and dropping them in the water”.

A third idea is that the feet belong to the long-lost victims of a plane crash and the rest of the bodies have innocently decomposed. One blogger ponders that mud crabs could have eaten everything else — much in the same way,

supposedly, that we humans discard crabs’ feet and legs once we have dined on the meat.

The police are keeping their cards close to their chest. Would it be poor taste to suggest that this one will run and run?