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Mortonhall ashes scandal: graves marked with spray paint in “final insult”

SPRAY PAINT on the mass grave where scores of cremated babies were laid to rest without their parents’ knowledge has been branded “the final insult”.

Council staff painted the dates of the years the babies were buried at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh, as their parents were lied to and told no ashes existed.

It is feared hundreds of stillborn or premature children were buried there over decades on the grounds of the council-run crematorium.

The unmarked graves are now marked with nothing more than spray painted numbers that represent the years the ashes buried in


Edinburgh MP Mark Lazarowicz joined grieving parents in expressing his outrage at the spray paint, which was put down within the last week.

The council says the paint has now been replaced with wooden markers showing the areas the remains for the appropriate years were disposed of in.

The scandal came to light after bereavement charity Sands Lothian discovered evidence parents were being denied ashes of their infants and babies.

The council is investigating the scandal, whish dates back 45 years.

Mr Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, said the way the ashes were treated was “totally disrespectful” and the scandal was “deeply shocking.”

He said: “The spray-painting is the final insult on top of all the other things that have happened.

“It’s simply awful – that should never have happened and I am actually lost for words as to how anyone could have thought this was the correct way of dealing with the babies’ ashes.”


It was revealed on Wednesday this week that Mortonhall Crematorium, run by Edinburgh City Council, had been secretly burying the ashes since the 1960s


Scott Ewens, 40, whose daughter was cremated at Mortonhall ten years ago and whose ashes are thought to lie within the grounds, called the green paint “tacky”.

He spoke of his horror at finding out about the paint: “It’s just so disrespectful. It is very impersonal and we’re not happy that there’s spray-paint and small pegs stuck in the ground.

“There is no indication of what it is.

“If Mortonhall wanted to tell people where the ashes were buried they could have done it in a more tactful way.

“Is this supposed to appease parents or relieve pressure on them?”



Lindsay Rob, 25, whose daughter was cremated in January, said she was “disgusted at the way the gravesite had been marked.

She said: “These are our babies in there and not just numbers in date order.

“It’s the kind of thing you would expect to happen about 45 years ago, not today.

“It’s very insensitive to the parents of babies who have already learned awful news about Mortonhall Crematorium this week.”

George Reid, 65, used the crematorium for the funeral of his three-month-old son in 1970.

He said: “Someone spray-painting a couple of plots and saying that’s 1970 and that’s 1980, there’s something not right there.

“I’m angry about it. I’m very disgusted that the authorities can do something like that.”

The council said they were able to identify approximately the areas where the babies were buried in the Garden of Remembrance.

Staff realised families would want to pay their respects and identified the areas if they wanted to visit, the council said.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, Environment convener, said: “This was only a temporary measure whilst we identified a more appropriate way of marking the sites and continue our discussions with Sands about a permanent memorial.

“I have instructed a full investigation into the historic practices at the crematorium which I hope will establish the facts of this tragic situation.

“We will continue to work with Sands to help those families who have been affected.”



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