Parents share baby ashes heartbreak

Grieving parents have contacted the BBC in the wake of the Shropshire baby ashes scandal to relate similar experiences of ashes not being returned.

Dozens of families did not receive their babies' ashes from Shrewsbury's Emstrey Crematorium from 1996 to 2012.

Earlier this month an inquiry concluded a national inspector should be created for crematoriums.

Now 20 similar cases have emerged from across the country.

Glen Perkins, from the Action For Ashes campaign group, which has been calling for a national inspector to be introduced, said the scale of the issue was "unbelievable".

"I cannot believe it is so widespread," he said.

Nicky Jones, Leicester

Image copyright Patricia Jones
Image caption Nicky Jones was cremated at Gilrose Crematorium in Leicester

Patricia Jones said she had never received the ashes of her son Nicky, who was cremated at Gilrose Crematorium in Leicester in May 1980.

She said she was told there would be no ashes because the bones were too fragile.

"Everybody takes it for granted that you're either buried or cremated and there will be a place to go to afterwards, but we had nothing," she said.

She added: "We opted for cremation but nobody said 'because there'll be no ashes, would you prefer a burial?'

"We weren't thinking straight."

Leicester City Council said that, like other authorities, it was unable to recover ashes of babies and very young children at the time of Nicky's cremation.

"Our records show that no ashes were recovered from the cremation of Patricia Jones's son," it said.

"We started being able to recover ashes more effectively in the mid-1980s, and with modern equipment we are now able to recover even the tiniest quantity of remains, which we pass on to families."

Jordan Hawes, Worthing

Image copyright Sandra Hawes
Image caption Jordan Hawes's mother said she was told there were no ashes to collect

Sandra Hawes's son Jordan died during childbirth in 1999. His funeral was held 10 days later at Worthing Crematorium.

But she has never received his ashes and is now using a Freedom of Information request to try to find out what happened to them.

"I was desperate to get my baby's remains home with me," she said.

"Parting with him in hospital whilst surrounded by new mothers and babies had been the most heart-wrenching experience of my life.

"My arms ached for him and I felt like I was abandoning him and needed to get him home again more than anything."

She said the funeral directors told her there were no ashes to collect.

She said: "I was utterly devastated. The grieving process could not be completed and I felt utterly empty."

Andy Edwards, Adur and Worthing Council's head of environment, said the authority had received a Freedom of Information request from Mrs Hawes and was seeking information.

Lisa Bhanu, Banbury

Lisa Bhanu's daughter died 20 minutes after being born in 2009 and was cremated at Banbury Crematorium.

She said she was initially told by the funeral directors there would not be any ashes because her baby was too small.

But, after hearing about cases in the news of ashes not being returned, the 41-year-old contacted Banbury Crematorium and said she was told they had been holding her child's ashes since 2009.

"They told me they had them there and were waiting for me to contact them," she said.

"I feel incredibly angry and let down. I'm happy we've got them back, but I'm frustrated it happened at all."

A spokeswoman for Midcounties Co-operative Funeralcare, which arranged the funeral, said the family signed paperwork asking for the scattering of the ashes to be witnessed and said she did not know why Mrs Bhanu was not contacted.

The BBC has asked the London Cremation Company, the private firm which runs and manages Banbury Crematorium, for a response.

Tom Winder, Eastbourne

Image copyright Lucy Winder
Image caption It was hoped the ashes of Tom Winder, pictured, would be scattered in the children's section of Eastbourne Cemetery

Tom Winder was 40 hours old when he died in September 2007.

His mother Lucy said the funeral director told her there probably would not be any ashes because Tom was so small.

She signed a form that gave Eastbourne Cemetery the right to scatter his ashes without a witness, but said she was vulnerable at the time and did not think of the implications.

"I thought they would at least tell me when they were going to do it," she said.

"We were resigned to the fact we were not going to get them, and, at the time, it was not a priority," she said.

Eastbourne Borough Council said its usual policy was to return ashes when parents requested them.

In a statement it said it would be contacting Mrs Winder to answer her questions.

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