Children's body parts were kept by police

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Media captionHannah Cheevers says she would "just like to know why" her baby was not buried with all his organs

Significant body parts from almost 90 children were kept by police often without informing parents, a BBC investigation has found.

A national audit in 2012 found police forces had kept almost 500 body parts from cases dating back to the 1960s.

In one, the brain of a child from Dorset was kept for 13 years. The mother was only told during a visit from police carrying out the audit.

Dorset Police said it would not comment on individual cases.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act it is legal for the police to retain body parts and samples during investigations.

Det Insp Kevin Connolly from Dorset Police said: "This has been incredibly difficult for these families and we have provided all the support we can to help them at this difficult time."

'Huge impact'

Chief Constable Debbie Simpson, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said forces were making changes following the national audit.

"I recognise fully the huge impact these issues have on families affected," she said.

"The rights of next of kin, and their wishes, were central to my recommendations and of the utmost importance."

The brain of Hannah Cheevers' son, Rhys, who died of heart problems in 1998, was kept by police.

She found out about what had happened when she had "a knock on the door from the police".

"I'd like to know the reasons behind them keeping them - especially in cases like my own where there was no criminal investigation, no suspicion.

No apology

"I'd like to know why," she added.

"We didn't give any consent for any part of him to be kept. We assumed we'd buried our child whole."

Ms Cheevers said she has not had an apology from Dorset Police.

The BBC has spoken to several others who have been involved in similar cases.

Julie Middleton's son, Regan, died in 1999 but she was only told his brain had been kept at Southampton Hospital last year.

In total, Dorset Police retained body parts from 12 under 18s while Avon and Somerset Police kept 21.

Other forces that held onto multiple children's body parts include Leicestershire with 11, Cambridgeshire with 10, the Police Service of Northern Ireland with nine and West Yorkshire with eight.

The retention of body parts has also led to police having to pay for almost 100 funerals.

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