Mother's 40-year campaign to exhume her baby's remains ends with an empty coffin

Lydia Reid knew something was wrong at her child’s funeral, but says nobody believed her

Molly Fleming
Saturday 02 September 2017 17:41
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Inside the coffin was a shawl, a hat, a cross and a nameplate with Gary’s name incorrectly – but no remains
Inside the coffin was a shawl, a hat, a cross and a nameplate with Gary’s name incorrectly – but no remains

A mother who has been campaigning for over 40 years to exhume her baby’s coffin has been left “devastated” as she discovered it is empty.

Gary died seven days after he was born at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh in July 1975.

Lydia Reid, 68, says she knew her son Gary was not in his coffin at his funeral.

“The coffin was light. I knew the weight of a baby. My son was not there. Again, nobody believed me,” Ms Reid told the BBC.

Reid has spent 42 years convinced that Gary was not in his coffin, before finally persuading Professor Dame Susan Black to carry out DNA tests on the remains — which meant she could be granted a court order for an exhumation.

She said: “I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be called a stupid old woman. But the minute Sue lifted the shawl out of the ground, I knew there was nothing in it. Nothing.

“My heart hit my feet. I didn’t know what to say.”

Prof Black discovered a shawl, a hat, a cross and a nameplate on top of the disintegrated coffin, which had spelt Gary’s name incorrectly.

The NHS in Scotland was forced to admit to widespread organ retention in 2001, after an investigation into Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool.

Between 1970 and 2000, approximately 6,000 organs and tissues were kept by Scottish hospitals, many from children.

Reid suspected that her son was among the countless victims, which is why she continued fighting decades after his death.

She said: “Even if he is lying in a jar in a hospital somewhere, I want to know. If it is possible to get my son back, I want to.”

Black, the director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, told the BBC: “Ultimately, there is only one possible logical explanation and that is that the body was not put in that coffin.”

NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said: “Our condolences are with the family of Gary Paton.”

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