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Organ Retention: Mother Finds no Body in Baby's Coffin

A mother who has been fighting for 42 years to find out what happened to her dead baby's remains has discovered his coffin was buried w...

A mother who has been fighting for 42 years to find out what happened to her dead baby's remains has discovered his coffin was buried with no body in it.

Lydia Reid was granted a court order for an exhumation to be carried out at the burial plot in Edinburgh last week but no human remains were found.

The exhumation was conducted by respected forensic anthropologist Prof Dame Sue Black. Her report concluded that the coffin was buried without human remains. Ms Reid said the news was "devastating".

During the exhumation, Prof Black found a shawl, a hat, a cross and a name tag in the burial plot at Saughton Cemetery in Edinburgh, as well as the disintegrated coffin.

The internationally-renowned forensic scientist said there were no skeletal remains and no sign of decomposition. She told BBC Scotland: "Ultimately there is only one possible logical explanation and that is that the body was not put in that coffin."

Ms Reid's son Gary died at seven days old in Edinburgh's Hospital for Sick Children in July 1975. Ms Reid, now 68, said that when she asked to see her son she was shown a child that was not hers.
Bizarre Case of Organ Retention Unearthed 

"I objected but they said I was suffering from post-natal depression. This baby was blonde and big, my baby was tiny and dark-haired. This was not my son."

Ms Reid has campaigned for years to find out what happened to her son. She was a leading figure in the Scottish push to expose how hospitals had unlawfully retained dead children's body parts for research.

The NHS in Scotland was forced to admit the widespread practice after an investigation into organ retention at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. About 6 000 organs and tissues were retained by Scottish hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many from children.

Ms Reid continued to suspect her son's organs had been taken without permission but she has never found proof. She said a post-mortem examination was carried out after his death against her wishes.

After getting Prof Black to agree to carry out DNA testing on the remains, Ms Reid was granted a court order for an exhumation to confirm the contents of the coffin.

Prof Black, the director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, said: "Lydia believed the baby in the grave may not be hers. The aim was to find bone for DNA analysis."

She said they found the coffin about 6ft down and the nameplate allowed them to identify that they were in the right place, even if Gary's name was spelled wrongly.

"When we first went down into the grave site there was a lot of funeral clothing so our expectation was that we had found what we were looking for," she said.

However, when they took the contents back to the lab to examine them there was no trace of human remains. There was a woollen shawl, a hat and a cotton shroud as well as fragments of the coffin.

"So we had wool, cotton and even a little cross, all preserved incredibly well - but there were no human remains," Prof Black said.

"There was no baby in the coffin. There is no other answer because you never get that level of preservation of coffin and not have a body be preserved.

"There is no hair inside the hat, there is no bone inside the coffin shroud. It was not there and I have never seen that before." - BBC

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