Police asked to start investigation into Mortonhall scandal

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POLICE have been asked to start an investigation into the secret disposal of ashes from stillborn and neonatal deaths at an Edinburgh crematorium.

Toni Franchitti, from Gifford in East Lothian, has asked officers to consider criminal charges against Mortonhall Crematorium over breaches in the 1935 Cremation Act.

Mr Franchitti lost his son, John Paul, on August 16, 1978 within three hours of him being born at the former Elsie Inglis Maternity Unit at Abbeyhill.

It has been revealed that Councils across Scotland take different approaches when bereaved parents of deceased newborns ask for the ashes.

 

The 53-year-old, who is the first cousin of US motor racing Dario Franchitti, was told by hospital authorities with his then wife, Lynn, that their son would have a “Christian burial.”

However, Toni and Lynn heard nothing for a year-and-a-half and believe that John Paul was cremated without their permission.

He said: “We left the hospital and just took for granted that they would contact us but then we heard nothing.

“We spent 18 months trying to find out whether he was buried or cremated and where his remains are but they just completely stonewalled us. I’m fully convinced that he ended up at

Mortonhall. If they had buried him somewhere then why wouldn’t they just tell us?

“It was when the Mortonhall scandal broke that the penny dropped and I realised that is what they would have done with him.”

Mr Franchitti, who was diagnosed with terminal motor neurone disease in September 2011, wants to get answers and justice for his son before he dies.

He has now contacted the charity, Sands Lothian, who broke the scandal, and the police.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police yesterday (Thurs) received a complaint in relation to Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh.

“The complaint will be thoroughly assessed in order to determine whether any further police action is appropriate.”

Parents have now asked for a hotline to be set up to allow former employees to expose the truth over what happened.

Patrick McGuire, of Thompsons Solicitors, who is acting for a number of parents affected, said it was only a matter of time before a “slew” of criminal complaints are received by the police.

He spoke at a meeting on Wednesday to parents involved in the scandal saying that a criminal investigation is warranted.

Many parents were wary in approaching the police as they were under the impression that this would stop them from being involved in any eventual public enquiry.

However, Mr McGuire said: “This is not the case. Lodging a criminal complaint with police and therefore being part of an ongoing investigation will not rule parents out of taking part in

any eventual public inquiry.

“Looking at the Cremation Act 1935 it is clear in its working that breaches of the law have taken place at Mortonhall.”

Mr McGuire has advised all clients to go to the police and lodge similar complaints.

This news came after further details emerged that infant ashes disposal practices are like a “postcode lottery” across Scotland with some crematoria disposing of babies’ ashes without telling parents.

Councils across Scotland take different approaches when bereaved parents of deceased newborns asked of remains.

Aberdeen, Fife and Argyll and Bute councils do not return ashes claiming that it is often not possible because there is nothing or not enough left.

Glasgow City Council said it was often not possible to collect ashes.

South Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, Falkirk and Perth and Kinross say they are able to provide ashes.

Highland Council gives families the option to have the ashes returned or scattered by staff.

 

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