Report on the Third SEARCH for the remains of
Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary, Brian Johnson
In June 2013, Captain Peter Sarandinaki, President of the SEARCH Foundation was able to take a team of American, British and Russian forensic experts to Perm, Russia, to conduct the third search for the remains of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary Brian Johnson.
Our search team comprised of forensic geophysicists, criminal investigators, archeologists, a medical examiner, historians and a cadaver dog team. We worked with the local Russian police as well as MVD (the Russian equivalent of our FBI). The Obretenye Foundation of Perm organized our stay by providing donors who helped defray the cost of our hotel, food and transportation. The Perm District Government provided our VISA invitations, necessary permits and workers to clear the overgrown forest. The Russian Orthodox Church, provided prayers and encouragement, as well as daily hot lunches from the local monastery.
After the team's arrival and initial scouting of possible search sites based on the fragmented historic record and community memory, the team determined that there were four main possibilities, each with strengths and weaknesses. As the search itself was labor intensive, it was decided that a thorough search could only be accomplished at one site at a time; thus the team chose what would be labeled Site A for this year's search. Unfortunately, we were not successful in locating the remains of Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary Brian Johnson. A partial human skull was located and will be examined further, but we do not believe it belongs to any of our victims. We do believe that due to the intensive manner of our search that we are convinced to a scientific certainty that the remains are not in Site A.
However, along with eliminating one potential site, the search was still a success in that during this period more of the historic record was brought forward and continues to be gathered that will help in future searches of the other sites.
Additionally, during a walk through our next search area, we found on what is known as Red Hill the site of an old arms cache - a covered wood-lined hole about 1.5m x 2.0m and 1 meter deep, and, when hitting the floor with a shovel, there was a hollow sound, indicating that there is a small chamber underneath.
We located in the swamp the remains of an old bridge dating back to the early 20th century directly across from the cache. We know from historical records that the killers crossed a bridge before reaching a hill that the horse-drawn carriages could not ascend. The members of our search team think the importance of the hole and the bridge is that it shows it was a place familiar to the killers (arms cache), as killers often bury their victims in places where they feel comfortable while avoiding detection. The hole is currently being searched by our Russian team members, but we feel that the actual graves may be between it and the bridge and require the sort of concerted, professional search that we conducted in June. My plan for next year is to go back to Perm with specialists from the UK, USA and Russia to search the Red Hill site as well as the other sites and conclude our mission to locate the remains of Mikhail Alexandrovich and his secretary Brian Johnson. I feel, as do other members of the team, that with the additions to the historical record coming from the populace, local historians and new documents--including better maps from that time period--we are very close to closing a very sad chapter of Russian history with the dignity and respect it deserves in large part due to your generosity and love of Russian history.
Captain Peter A. Sarandinaki
President SEARCH Foundation, Inc.