Shropshire

Shrewsbury 'lost baby ashes' probe finds 60 cases

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Media captionLewis Prior died aged two in 2005

At least 60 families have been affected by a crematorium's failure to return the ashes of dead babies to bereaved parents, an inquiry has found.

The probe was launched after a BBC investigation found Emstrey Crematorium in Shrewsbury had only returned one of 30 sets of remains since 2004.

In a progress report, inquiry head David Jenkins said a trawl of cremation records over the past 15 years had found more cases.

The full report is due in April.

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Image caption Staff at the Emstrey Crematorium said equipment did not enable them to return some baby ashes

Mr Jenkins, a former Dorset County Council chief who was selected to lead the Shropshire Council-commissioned inquiry in December, said he had met bereaved parents and crematorium staff during his investigation.

Parents had "felt their grief made all the more intense" by what they perceived as an unsatisfactory experience at the hands of the crematorium, he said.

"Their sense of anger and anguish arising from the lack of identifiable ashes is acute and real."

Mr Jenkins met with bereaved parents at a public meeting at Shrewsbury Baptist Church on Monday night.

Image caption Karen Prior welcomed the inquiry but said it brought back painful memories

Karen Prior, whose son Lewis was cremated ten years ago, said the meeting was "very emotional".

"There were lots of things we didn't want to hear again because it's bringing it back - the day we lost Lewis.

"But I think the meeting went well and I think we have just got to wait for the outcome of the inquiry."

Glen Perkins, whose four-month-old daughter Olivia was cremated at Emstrey Crematorium in December 2007, said the meeting was "very challenging".

"We are the ones who have to be heard - the council have had their say, the crematorium have given their point of view and now it's our turn.

"We deserve answers, we deserve people to be taken to task for this."

The inquiry aims to establish what happened to the remains of a number of babies and young children cremated at Emstrey over the last 15 years.

Mr Jenkins said staff had told him it was not possible for the crematorium's equipment to be "operated in such a way as to enable the return of a child's ashes".

Image caption A BBC investigation found just one set of ashes had been returned to a bereaved family since 2004

He said his impression of workers at the site was of "conscientious professionals, trying to do the best they can for bereaved families".

The remainder of the investigation would focus on cases before December 2012, when new furnaces were installed at the site.

Most relevant cases before this time had been registered as "no ashes obtainable", Mr Jenkins said.

Shropshire Council, which owns the crematorium, and Co-operative Funeralcare, which has managed the site since 2009, are due to submit evidence to the inquiry on past and present cremation policies.

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