Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Baby ashes parents in public inquiry call

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionDorothy Maitland: "I'm just not sure that my daughter's ashes are there."

Parents are calling for a public inquiry following a report into a baby ashes scandal at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh.

Many parents will be left with a "lifetime of uncertainty" about their child's final resting place, according to the report.

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini wrote the report into former practices at Mortonhall Crematorium.

She described the situation as a "great tragedy".

The report said parents affected by the scandal were not told that ashes were left after their babies were cremated because it would have been "too distressing".

They also said that baby ashes were cremated in the evening when incinerators were cooler, and any ash found in the morning "would be mixed in with the first adult cremation in the morning".

Parent Dorothy Maitland, who uncovered the scandal after asking staff about her baby daughter Kaelen's ashes, said of the report: "Some of it I'm not surprised by.

Image caption Dorothy Maitland's daughter Kaelen was one of the infants whose ashes were interred at Mortonhall

"In my own case I've been told that it would appear my own daughter's ashes are buried in the garden of remembrance but it doesn't actually confirm it.

"I just think babies have been treated so differently from adults [but] why?"

Ms Maitland, who is operations manager for the Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Society (Sands Lothian), added: "Things have moved forward but why didn't someone think 'no, we have to do this in a different way'? This has caused so much distress to families. Every baby's parents should get the ashes for their baby. Staff should be trained and shown how to achieve this."

She said many parents would not be satisfied until there was a full public inquiry into the events.

Willie Reid, 48, from Bathgate, chairman of the Mortonhall Action Committee and whose daughter, Donna, died at two days old in 1988, told the BBC Scotland news website the report had "brought up more questions than answers".

"I was told 15 months ago that my daughter was in the garden of remembrance but the report today says they were cremating the babies overnight and then not emptying it before the next adult went in during the next day," he said.

"So I don't know if my daughter is in the garden of remembrance.

"Who are these people to make life and death decisions? They have no right to play god with our babies."

Mr Reid said he felt "very angry" and called for a full public inquiry.

Box ticking

A 41-year-old mother, whose son's ashes were scattered in Mortonhall's Rose Garden without her knowledge, said she was "angry and upset" to hear managers had refused to tell parents there were ashes.

The woman, who asked not to be named, told BBC Scotland: "My stomach is in knots, I could vomit. I absolutely disagree that it would have been too distressing to find out our babies had been cremated.

"It would have helped us if we could have taken the remains of our wee boy and disposed of them in the way we decided.

"It is the basic right of a mother to be given enough information to make an informed choice and we weren't given that.

"We were led to believe there would be no cremation and told to tick a box."

The mother does not know if a further two babies she lost are also in Mortonhall, as an investigation returned "insufficient evidence", meaning there were no records of what happened to them.

The Edinburgh mother added: "The report is really distressing to read. It is very upsetting."

Silver bracelet

Madelaine Cave, whose daughter, Megan, died in 1994 after 15 days, said: "We were told babies bones are soft and there would therefore be no ashes.

"My sister put a little dress on Megan, a little silver bracelet and put her on a cushion I had slept on.

"I held my baby and kissed her and stroked her hair and told her how much I loved her and would miss her and eventually I had to leave her there.

"We passed her into the care of Mortonhall Crematorium to look after her like I had done.

"Reading the report today there seems to be a few options over what happened to my daughter.

"She was either swept out with the first adult the next day or her remains were Hoovered out and dumped in bags beside a skip at the crematorium or her ashes were possibly buried in the garden of remembrance.

"I will never ever know what happened to my baby's ashes or her final resting place. I don't know what to do now."

Speaking to reporters at the news conference, solicitor Mr McGuire added: "It is not a day for lawyers or sound bites. This is a day for sad and sombre reflection and Scotland wants to hear from the families.

"As the report has only been available since this morning I have only had time to make an initial response rather than a considered view.

"What jumped out at me from a legal perspective was the clear evidence that human remains are found in relation to stillborn babies and babies with a gestation of more than 17 weeks.

"This report pulls no punches."

He added: "What jumped out at me from the report, which was extremely shocking, was the practice at the crematorium where baby ashes were cremated in the evening and any ash found in the morning would be mixed in with the first adult cremation in the morning.

"This opens a whole new chapter to this scandal."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites