Crematorium failed to give dozens of grieving parents their babies' ashes

Inquiry finds that a catalogue of failures at a Shropshire crematorium meant that the ashes of over 50 infants were not returned to their families

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The Independent Online

Parents have spoken of their distress after a crematorium failed to return their babies’ ashes to them.

A report released today revealed that more than 50 grieving families are believed to have been affected by a series of failures at Emstrey crematorium in Shrewsbury. The report by Shropshire Council blames “poor training and out of date equipment” for a catalogue of errors at the crematorium which meant that ashes of infants under the age of one, were not returned to their parents.

The report revealed that the cremators used at the site did not have an automated special setting for deceased infants. This meant that they failed to retain the ashes for children under the age of one.

The inquiry found that a number of parents had understood that it was possible to receive their children’s ashes and were greatly distressed when they were told by the crematorium that this would not be possible. The report confirmed that if the cremations had taken place elsewhere, it would have been possible for families to receive ashes.

One parent told the inquiry that the crematorium’s failure to hand over the ashes: “felt like body snatching.”

Another parent, Glen Perkins, spoke of his pain after his daughter’s death in 2007. He said: “We don’t have a headstone or a plaque in the ground for her because we had nothing to put there. I don’t know where my baby is. Is she mixed in with someone else, has she been scattered at sea, in a river or a beach?”

The report said that staff at the crematorium showed “cavalier disregard” for grieving parents’ feelings.

It recommended that a national inspector be established to regulate crematoriums in Britain, to prevent a similar situation taking place again.

The issue came to light as a result of an investigation by the BBC last year. The council report confirmed that the crematorium had installed new equipment in 2012 which had been appropriately retaining infant ashes since then.