Mother watched son's cremation - then found out he was still alive

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The Independent Online

A mother who thought she had cremated her missing son was told the next day that he was alive and well.

Gina Partington spent nearly an hour bidding a tearful farewell to her son, Tommy Dennison, at what she thought was his funeral on Tuesday. But Ms Partington, 58, from Urmston, Greater Manchester, had mistakenly identified a dead man as Tommy – a 39-year-old rough sleeper who has mental health problems.

Police called the next day to say they had found Mr Dennison in Nottingham. Detectives now believe they know the name of the man who died on 12 October in Rusholme, Manchester. The 37-year-old was also living rough and efforts to trace his father, who lives in Ireland, are under way.

When officers from the Greater Manchester force found a body matching Mr Dennison's description, they contacted a mental health worker who had been caring for him for six months. She mistakenly confirmed that the body was his – a verdict reiterated by Ms Partington when she visited the chapel of rest at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Ms Partington said: "After the lady from the mental health hostel identified him, she gave police my details as the next of kin. I then went to the chapel of rest. I held his hand and kissed his head. I stayed with him for about 40 minutes and would have sworn that he was my son."

She added: "We held his funeral at Southern Cemetery on Tuesday and there were genuine tears, because Tommy is a lovely lad. The next day, I had a phone call from the police, who said they had to speak to me urgently. They said a man had been taken into custody in Nottingham two days earlier – and it was my son. I then spoke to Tommy on the phone and kept asking him the name of my mum to convince myself it was him. But I still couldn't believe it."

Ms Partington has not yet been reunited with her son, because he was released by police and is believed to be back on the streets of Nottingham. "He has mental health issues but, despite this, he was bailed by the police," Ms Partington said. "I don't know where he is again – but he's alive."

Her family is seeking legal advice following the mix-up and the case has been voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

A police source said that Mr Dennison and the dead man were remarkably similar, even having the same body markings.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: "On 12 October, a man was reported missing by social services. On 15 October, the body of a man was found near Upper Brook Street, Rusholme. It has now been established that the body was not that of the missing man. These circumstances are clearly distressing and urgent inquiries are going on to establish how this happened.

"The original missing person has since been found alive and well and has been in contact with his family."

He added that the coroner had been fully informed of the situation.

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