A top forensic expert carried two human heads on a flight from Italy to Scotland as part of an investigation into a serial killer.
Dame Professor Sue Black said she brought the grim packages from Verona to Glasgow after being asked to help Italian colleagues who were probing Gianfranco Stevanin.
The Italian killer, known as the ‘Monster of Terrazzo’, was convicted of murdering six women between 1993 and 1994.
Dame Sue upgraded to business class before carrying the decaying heads in designer bags as she passed through strict security procedures on her journey.
And she told how the trip resulted in an unexpected travel boost as shocked cabin crew isolated her on the first leg of her travels.
The 59-year-old told how she made the trip to help in a process called ‘facial superimposition’ that could only be complete at her base in Scotland.
She said: “It meant that what I had to do, because they didn’t have the capability in Italy, was to take the skulls over to the UK.
“But they weren’t skulls, that’s the whole point. They were fleshed, they had quite a lot of maggot activity, so they were very wet and very smelly in the process.
“So what they decided to do was to put each of the heads into white buckets that you could seal and so that we didn’t disturb anyone at airports, I would carry them in two very expensive designer carrier bags so that it didn’t look obvious.
“I carried two letters, one in Italian, one in English that said what I was carrying.”
Dame Sue passed through Italian airport security before boarding her flight where cabin crew asked her to put her bags in storage.
Speaking on the BBC’s Big Scottish Book Club, she added: “I got onto the plane and the air hostess said, ‘you need to put your bags in the hold’.
“I gave her the English letter and she was utterly horrified but moved me into business class, which I thought was very nice.
“But it was as if they had put razor wire around me because they totally ignored me for the entirety of the flight. I was like a plague victim.”
When Dame Sue landed safely at Heathrow she passed through her remaining security checks to board a flight to Glasgow.
She added: “I then get onto the flight from Heathrow up to Glasgow, have the same problem with the air steward, and he this time put me to the back of the plane and moved everybody else up to business class.
“I got the entire way from Verona to Glasgow without anybody ever looking inside those buckets.”
The Inverness-born forensic anthropologist has worked on notorious cases including helping to identify more victims of serial killer Dennis Nilsen.
Nilsen died aged 72 in 2018 while serving a whole life sentence.
His crimes were the subject of recent ITV drama Des, starring David Tennant as the killer.
Dame Sue reveals more details on her work in her latest book, Written in Bone.