Hull City council has admitted that it released the wrong body to the family of Christopher Alder. Christopher, a 37 year old former soldier, died in police custody in 1998.
His family has spent years campaigning for justice.
Now they have been told that they buried the remains of an elderly woman at his funeral in 2000, while Christopher’s body remained in the council’s mortuary.
Janet Alder, Christopher’s sister, spoke to Socialist Worker about her reaction. “I was in shock, this was the last thing we expected after all that’s happened,” she said.
“They’ve treated us all like dirt.
“We can’t bury Christopher when someone else is in the family grave. We’ll probably cremate him now.
“I’m looking for some legal support. The police say they’re starting a criminal investigation. But all this does is stop people talking about what happened.”
The body buried in Christopher’s grave is that of Grace Kamara, who died of natural causes in 1999 at the age of 77.
The scandal of the mix up was only discovered as
members of Grace’s family, who had come from Nigeria for the funeral on Friday of last week, asked to see her body before it was buried.
“The council didn’t need to be rocket scientists to find out if they had the right body,” said Janet.
She contested the argument that no one knew who was in the coffin. “Don’t they have a process for embalming the body? How did they get it into the coffin?
“All these questions need to be answered. We should focus on the council. It was in charge of Christopher’s body at the time of his funeral.”
An investigation by the Yorkshire Post newspaper, published in December 2009, raises questions about the long delay before Grace’s funeral.
An article, headlined “Tragedy of body in mortuary unclaimed for 10 years”, reported that a body had been found in Hull council’s mortuary.
The council said, “The decision to release the body rests with the coroner, not with Hull City Council. We have requested that the coroner release the body and he is reviewing this request.”
The Post also stated, “The coroner’s office is understood to be in contact with the deceased’s next of kin in Nigeria, and the case is expected to be resolved in January.”
Why no one had spotted that they had the wrong body remains unknown.
Christine Omoregie, a friend of Grace’s, told the Hull Daily Mail, “They deceived us and took us for fools. The council has treated us with no humanity.”
Hull City Council chief executive Nicola Yates said, “On Friday 4 November 2011, I was made aware of a situation relating to the body of a man, who was in his late 30s, located in the city mortuary. The body lay in place of where Grace Kamara had been recorded as resting. At the moment I cannot explain this.
“I am appalled and distraught at what I have learned and in conjunction with Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust we will be undertaking a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding the events.”