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Police unable to identify ashes recovered from funeral home under investigation

Police outside the Hessle Road branch of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull (PA) (PA Wire)
Police outside the Hessle Road branch of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull (PA) (PA Wire)

Detectives have revealed they are unable to identify human ashes recovered from a scandal-hit funeral home at the centre of a major investigation over “care of the deceased”.

They have also confirmed they have received a “significant number of calls” over suspected financial and fraudulent activity at Legacy Independent Funeral Directors amid a complex probe.

The update comes after a total of 35 bodies and suspected human ashes were seized from the Hull funeral parlour last month after police received a report of concerns about “storage and management processes”.

Two people, a man aged 46 and a 23-year-old woman, remain on bail after being arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position.

The investigation sparked an outpouring of concern from families over what may have happened to their relatives’ bodies after they were entrusted to the firm.

In a press conference held four weeks into the investigation, Humberside Police Assistant Chief Constable Thom McLoughlin said work is continuing to formally identify the 35 bodies retrieved from Legacy’s site in Hessle Road. Officers are in contact with the families of all of those whose bodies had been moved.

However, he revealed that they will not be able to confirm the identity of ashes from the home.

Assistant Chief Constable Thom McLoughlin issued an update on the investigation into Legacy Independent Funeral Directors (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Assistant Chief Constable Thom McLoughlin issued an update on the investigation into Legacy Independent Funeral Directors (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

He said: “Since the start of the investigation our dedicated phone line has received over 2,000 calls from concerned members of the public. Of those a significant number were understandably concerned about the identification of the ashes of their loved ones so that repatriation with their families can take place.

“We have been working closely with forensic scientists and specialists to assess whether it was possible to extract DNA from the human ashes in order to identify them.

“Whilst the expert opinion provides us with assurance that the proper crematorium process had been followed; unfortunately, given the high temperature required to carry out a cremation, the DNA will have been broken down and degraded to such a level, that we would not be able to recover a meaningful DNA profile.

“This means that we are unable to identify any of the human ashes. This will, of course, be devastating news for families and loved ones and you have my heartfelt condolences at this difficult time.

He also confirmed police were investigating complaints over the funeral home’s finances and urged customers to contact their funeral plan providers, adding: “In addition we have had a number of calls that relate to suspected financial and fraudulent activity.

“I have dedicated, specialist investigation teams carrying out numerous enquiries and following up on various leads and information.

Council officials also confirmed they had visited 50 funeral homes in the area in the wake of the alleged scandal.

Angela Dearing, the Director of Housing, Transportation and Public Protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “While the sector is not formally regulated nationally, the visits were an opportunity for us to look at a number of key areas of funeral directors’ business,” adding it is clear the ongoing incident “is in no way typical of the funeral industry in our area”.

Officers cordoned off three of the company’s sites last month after the force received a report of concerns about the “storage and management processes relating to care of the deceased”.

Police said they were investigating a “truly horrific incident” and later confirmed they had contacted the families of the 35 families bodies they had recovered from the funeral home, which are being formally identified at Hull’s city mortuary.