In El Salvador, home of the bloodiest gang violence in the world, someone is killed almost every hour, mostly over petty gang feuds or small-time extortions.
“Do you have any idea of how many people you’ve killed?,” asks Dateline’s Jason Motlagh to an unidentified gang informant.
“26,” he responds.
It is believed there are several thousand bodies buried in hidden graves across the country, leaving relatives in agony of not knowing where they are, or if they are actually dead.
This Tuesday, Dateline’s Jason Motlagh investigates the extreme violence gripping the streets of El Salvador, by joining a man who digs up dead bodies for a living.
Israel Ticas is one of very few forensic criminologists in the country. Often working in mass graves, Ticas is also known as ‘the lawyer for the dead,’ working tirelessly to bring justice for murder victims from beyond the grave.
His dedication also makes him a possible target for gang retribution.
The nature of the violence Ticas deals with is staggering. Picking up a rock in his workshop, he tells Jason: “[Translated] That has blood - DNA, still on it. It was used to bash a 3 year-old boy because his father was in another gang.”
“The brutality is shocking. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do this job, except for Ticas,” Jason adds.
As Dateline follows one man’s gruesome struggle to bring closure to the families of the victims, will he find answers in a system that can’t keep up with the violence?
Lawyer for the Dead on Dateline, Tuesday 21 February at 9.30pm on SBS. The episode will be available after broadcast via SBS On Demand.