England

Philip Bradbourn MEP funeral: 'Wrong body cremated'

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Media captionPhilip Bradbourn had been the Conservative MEP for the West Midlands since 1999

The body of a man was cremated by mistake at the funeral of an MEP with an almost identical name, the BBC has learned.

Philip Bradbourn, a Conservative MEP, died at Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, on 20 December. Philip Bradburn died at University Hospital Birmingham before Christmas.

Both bodies were taken to the same mortuary, it is understood.

But the wrong body was released in January for the MEP's cremation.

The funeral directors and two hospitals are investigating the claims.

Image copyright Google
Image caption A funeral and cremation was held for the MEP at Bushbury crematorium, Wolverhampton

Timeline

  • 20 December: Philip Bradbourn MEP dies at Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield
  • 16 January: A funeral and cremation is held for the MEP at Bushbury crematorium in Wolverhampton
  • 16 February: Mr Bradbourn's next-of-kin are informed that there has been a mix-up with the bodies
  • 23 February: Another funeral and cremation is held at Bushbury crematorium in Wolverhampton involving Mr Bradbourn's body

Alastair Little, the MEP's chief of staff for 11 years, said the family felt a "sense of anger and disbelief" and the mix-up had "intensified their grief".

Mr Little was made Mr Bradbourn's next-of-kin so that he could arrange the funeral, and was told about the error by telephone.

He later had a meeting with a senior member of the NHS, he said. "We entrusted Philip's body to the NHS, but we've been let down by them," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the investigation and said he hoped the matter could be properly resolved.

He said: "My heart goes out to both families because these are incredibly tender and sensitive times and for families to have this information is deeply distressing."

'Very sorry'

Image caption More than 200 people attended a service in Mr Bradbourn's memory at Bushbury crematorium in Wolverhampton

Dr Andrew Catto, from the Heart of England Foundation Trust, which runs the Good Hope Hospital, said it was "an incredibly distressing situation".

"We are very sorry that this has happened - we are carrying out a full and urgent investigation between all the parties involved," he said.

Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, a friend of Mr Bradbourn, said it was "inexplicable" that such an incident could happen.

"We want to make sure this never happens again and I am sure the people who manage the hospital trusts concerned will have a full investigation and will tell everyone the results," he said.

'No comment'

A spokesperson for Central England Co-operative Funeralcare, which operates the mortuary, said: "The Society's Funeralcare operation provides services to a number of hospitals within the Birmingham area, but it is not our policy to comment on behalf of any of these organisations.

"The Society is supporting one of our partners in a full and open an investigation, but is not able to comment further while the investigation is ongoing."

Co-operative Funeralcare said that although Central England Co-operative Funeralcare used its branding, it did not operate the funeral directors and had "no involvement in this case".

The Heart of England trust said that over 10 years it had been involved in three incidents in which the wrong body had been released. In each case the error was picked up prior to burial or cremation, a spokesman said.

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Image caption A memorial service was held for Mr Bradbourn at St Peter's Collegiate Church in Wolverhampton

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said: "We have been asked to be part of the investigation into this unfortunate incident and will fully co-operate with the parties involved."

The trust said its mortuary practices had been reviewed in general and specifically around the case, and "no errors or issues" had been identified.

Philip Bradbourn represented the West Midlands and had served in the European Parliament since 1999.

He died at the age of 63 after being diagnosed with bowel cancer. A memorial service was held in his honour at St Peter's Collegiate Church in Wolverhampton in March.

It is understood that Mr Bradburn had no immediate relatives, although very few details of his life have been disclosed. It is believed that a funeral service was being planned by social services.

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