Foreign Office forced to rethink policy on Britons in distress

The Isherwood family were on their first foreign holiday. On the grassy verge beside a quiet road on the Greek island of Crete, Howard Isherwood pushed his four-year-old son, David, in a buggy, as his wife, Joan, walked beside them with their other son, Andrew, nine.

Almost unnoticed, a white Toyota appeared from nowhere at high speed and ploughed into them, killing both the boys. The tragedy signalled the start of an eight-year battle for justice which the Isherwoods have had to fight alone.

In the latest shocking twist to their story, the Greek courts are asking the couple to contribute pounds 2,000 towards prison meals for those responsible for their children's deaths. The Government has not been able to help.

Last night, the Foreign Office said it had drawn up new guidelines for the relatives of Britons who die overseas. The guidance follows a succession of complaints from grieving families about lack of official support.

A spokesman for the FO said: "Quite often, people assume that we are able to do more than we can. Relatives tend to think `I am a tax-payer, therefore HMG can pay to repatriate my relative's body.

"HMG cannot do that. We do not have a budget to do so. But we can put people in touch with professional undertakers who can carry out that service."

News of the guidelines follows the distressing case of the Cunningham family who were informed by the FO that their son, Paul, had died in Malaysia of a drugs overdose.

Doreen Cunningham, 49, began making arrangements for the funeral of her son, who was 25, after being told that he had died after swallowing 43 condoms packed with heroin. In fact, the dead body belonged to a drugs smuggler who was carrying a stolen passport which the young British graduate only reported missing 10 days after he was thought to have died.

Mrs Cunningham said: "At the time, I could never imagine he was involved in drugs. It was the worst thing a mother could ever imagine. I must have phoned the Foreign Office a dozen times to check there hadn't been a mistake."

The Cunninghams' experience did not surprise Brian Simpson, Labour's MEP for Cheshire East, who has campaigned for the Isherwoods.

He said: "I just don't believe that our Foreign Office helps British citizens who are abroad and in trouble as much as [do] other EU member states."

Among those who are angry at their treatment by the FO is Simon Regan, whose half-brother, Angus Wilson, publisher of the satirical magazine, Spiked, died in a car crash in Northern Cyprus in September.

Mr Regan said the family had expected the FO to fly Mr Wilson's body back for burial. He was shocked when they were asked for pounds 2,500 to cover the cost. He was even more horrified when the body arrived.

"Poor Angus had been sent back in a cheeseboard box which had been tacked up loosely," he said. "The tacks had come undone and the body had been partly exposed. On top of this rough crate, someone had tacked on a piece of metal which resembled a cross."

British undertakers asked the family for an extra pounds 500 to pay for a proper coffin. Outraged, Mr Regan complained to the FO. "It does appear that Her Britannic Majesty's Consul doesn't give much of a damn about Her Britannic Majesty's subjects once they become corpses."

Tracie Miles, whose brother, Paul, and his girlfriend, Joanna Stickland, were murdered while back-packing in Uttar Pradesh in India, is also bitter. Four years after the deaths, the families have not been able to retrieve the couple's possessions. "It was a nightmare," said Ms Miles. "The whole thing is just appalling. I am bitter and I am angry. The Foreign Office say they will keep you up-dated but they don't. They are really not interested. The new FO guidelines at least let people know where they stand. As well as telling them that a British consulate can advise on the cost of a local burial, and offering to help transfer money from friends or relatives, they also warn that British officials cannot investigate possible crimes or contribute to burial expenses.

The advice has come too late for Joan Isherwood, but she is a never-say- die battler. "It was quite horrendous. We were in a tragic situation: our only two children were killed and I myself was at death's door.

"To then return to your native land and find that there is very little support is like a kick below the belt."

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone