On March 8, 2018, a fisherman was taking a stroll along the Amur River in Khabarovsk, Russia when he stumbled across an unusual find. Along the river’s snowy banks the fisherman spotted what appeared to be a severed hand.

Alerting local authorities to his find, the Siberian Times reports that investigators were quick to the scene near the river’s Beshennaya channel. Near where the unidentified hand lay, a black bag was found. Inside, a further 53 of the mysterious hands were discovered.

Locals had many theories on where the hands could have originated from. Some suspected that the hands may have been lobbed off as a form of punishment for stealing, before being dumped into the river. Others believed the hands belonged to victims of the Chinese Mafia. Along with the hands, investigators say they found hospital waste including bandage wrappers and plastic shoe covers, leading authorities to speculate that someone had cut the hands off of fresh cadavers but were unclear on what the motive may have been.

The Investigative Committee of The Russian Federation would post a statement days after their gruesome discovery. Through their investigation, they discovered that the hands had come from a local forensics lab. The agency admits that the “biological objects” were not disposed of in a proper manner as designated by law, however, suspect there is no reason for the agency to pursue the investigation any further.

In a follow-up piece from the Siberian Times, it is explained that in Russia when a corpse is unidentified the hands are sometimes cut off in order to retain fingerprints. The hands are then stored in a forensic laboratory until they are no longer needed. This still does not explain why the laboratory decided to place a bag of hands into the river, rather than using proper disposal methods or returning the hands to the families of the (assumingly identified) cadavers.

Many locals remain skeptical about the official findings of the investigation, believing that it’s too soon to indicate that there was no criminal intent behind dumping a bag of human hands in a popular fishing spot.

The usual story is reminiscent of the mystery of the human feet, 13 in total, that have washed up on the shores of British Columbia for the past decade. Some believed that the feet may have had ties to organized crime syndicates or other nefarious origins. Scientists, however, have theorized that it is possible that none of the owners of the feet were met with foul play, rather, they had all died at sea on account of some terrible accident. Researchers concluded that it had been the running shoes all of the feet were secured in at the time of their discovery that may have slowed the decomposition process and prevented them from becoming part of a meal for fish and other aquatic life.

Were the hands found in Russia an innocent mistake on behalf of a nearby medical forensics lab, as officials claim, or were the hands placed there for more sinister reasons?