ROME - The bodies of 26 women who drowned attempting the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe were brought to Italy on Sunday, where investigators launched a murder inquiry. A seemingly endless line of black plastic body bags were lowered by crane from a Spanish ship onto the portside in Salerno, southern Italy, where they were placed in coffins and loaded onto waiting hearses. Twenty-three of the women died on Friday after the inflatable dinghy they were travelling on sank, and their bodies were recovered by the Spanish ship Cantabria, which was operating as part of the EU anti-trafficking force Sophia. A Sophia spokesman said another three bodies had been discovered during other life-saving operations this week. There was no immediate explanation as to why all the dead were women, though the crossing is riskier for them. For every five men who drown in the boats trying to cross the Mediterranean, six women also die, according to migrant expert Sine Plambech, adjunct professor at Columbia University. They can have poorer swimming skills compared to men and their attempts to save their children often lead to their drowning, as does the heavier clothing they wear, he said