More than two months after human bones were mailed from the Belfast Post Office, local police have now learned that the man who sent the unusual package is a World War II collector from Massachusetts.

Belfast Detective Sgt. Bryan Cunningham said officers with the New York Police Department contacted him late last week to update him about the case.

Cunningham said the NYPD officers did not reveal the mailer’s identity, and only stated that the man hailed from Wakefield, Mass. New York police also verified that the man mailed the bones, along with an anonymous note, to the Consulate-General of Japan in New York City in an attempt to return the remains to the home country of the deceased. Cunningham said the man, who is a collector of World War II memorabilia, mailed the shoebox-sized package while on vacation in the Belfast area.

Cunningham said after NYPD officers interviewed the Massachusetts collector last week, they learned that he did not acquire the bones as part of a collection, as he had indicated in the anonymous note. The letter inside the package stated that the sender acquired the bones as part of a collection of items several years ago, and that the bones came from Peleliu Island, which is now called Palau.

Instead, the collector had actually found the bones himself during a trip to Palau.

“Pre-9/11, he had been to the island of Palau,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham said the Massachusetts man located the bones in a cave during his visit, and brought them home in his suitcase.

“He’s been back since, but because of 9/11, he couldn’t bring them back the same way he brought them home,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham said the man wanted to return the bones to the home country of the deceased person, but was unsure how to accomplish that without attracting a lot of attention.

Then, while on vacation in Maine this past summer, Cunningham said the man read about a World War II skull that a Holden collector had returned to the Japanese government for proper burial. That’s where he got the idea to mail the bones from Belfast, and he did so Sept. 7. The mailing included an anonymous note stating that the bones were believed to be those of a World War II Japanese soldier, and that they should be returned home for proper burial. The package also carried a false return address.

The package made it to the Japanese Consul-General’s office, but they were immediately turned over to the NYPD’s anthropology department. The hope was to verify that the bones were at least 50 years old and were those of a Japanese male. Cunningham said the appearance of the bones, which included a skull with an intact jawbone and teeth, ribs and a femur, suggested that they were several decades old.

NYPD contacted the Belfast Police Department about the bones Sept. 29, and Cunningham said police were able to track the package back to the Belfast Post Office, despite the fake return address.

Monday, Nov. 15, Cunningham said based on his discussions with NYPD officers, it appears that the bones are authentic.

Cunningham maintained that there was nothing criminal about the mailing, but the Japanese consulate could not accept the remains without first obtaining more information about them.