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Call for Leicester's Elephant Man to be buried after 120 years

image copyrightQueen Mary University of London
image captionFour views of Joseph Merrick's skeleton stored at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel

The founder of a tribute website for Leicester's Joseph Merrick, who became known as the Elephant Man, has called for his bones to finally be buried.

Since Mr Merrick died in 1890, his skeleton has been studied at Queen Mary University of London's medical school.

Jeanette Sitton, from Friends of Joseph Merrick, said the time had now come for him to have "ultimate rest".

The university said his family had agreed for his bones to be retained for ongoing medical research.

Mr Merrick, who died at the age of 27, suffered from a rare bone disorder and spent four years at a Leicester workhouse before he persuaded a showman to exhibit him.

He was dubbed the Elephant Man before being rescued by London surgeon Frederick Treves.

'Laid to rest'

It is understood that Mr Merrick was expected to be preserved after his death, with his remains available for medical education and research.

Ms Sitton said: "Once there is nothing more for scientists to discover from the bones, his skeleton should be laid to rest.

"The family say that Joseph's skeleton should be left to the hospital... but there is no record to infer that he was going to be left to become an exhibit or be used for medial science after his death."

Professor Richard Trembath, from the university, said: "Understanding the precise medical problem that Merrick had... has relevance for many important conditions, like cancer.

"Modern advances allows us to examine DNA extracted from the bones, obviously that can only happen if we have access to the skeleton, to get confirmation of the diagnosis.

"In the future the skeleton could give us a greater insight into the ways in which it can provide us with very important information."

Mr Trembath added that it was a "possibility" for the skeleton to be buried if the family wished.

Mr Merrick's mother Mary Jane Merrick is buried at Welford Road Cemetery, in Leicester.

image copyrightPA
image captionJoseph Merrick suffered from a rare bone disorder which left him disfigured

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