City council cremated man without telling family

Janette and Frank visit Easter Road cemetery, where their brother Jimmy would have been buried. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Janette and Frank visit Easter Road cemetery, where their brother Jimmy would have been buried. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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DEVASTATED relatives have blasted the council for cremating a family member without telling them.

Jimmy Docherty died last month of respiratory failure, having spent the last 20 years in residential care.

However, the city council – which is still investigating how it dealt with babies’ ashes at Mortonhall Crematorium - failed to tell the family until after the funeral.

His sister and legal next of kin, Janette Docherty, found out about his death after receiving a letter from the council referring to the “late James Docherty”.

Janette, 63, and brother Frank say their shock and grief was compounded when they found out Jimmy had been cremated against the family’s Catholic beliefs.

She said: “To open a letter and find out that your brother is dead and no-one has told you is just shocking. Then to find out they’ve already cremated him is just unbelievable.

“It’s taken away Jimmy’s dignity and all our rights as a family. They’ve robbed us of our chance to pay our respects to him and give him a proper Roman Catholic burial. He’s not even had his last rights read – that’s what upsets me most.

“We might not have seen him often but he was family and it breaks my heart that I never got to say goodbye. We don’t even know where his ashes are. For all we know, they’ve probably thrown him in the bin.”

Jimmy, who would have been 54 this week, was in full-time care after suffering a near-fatal seizure. He required round-the-clock care as he was unable to talk and had to learn how to feed himself again.

He had been staying at Inch View care home in Liberton when he fell ill and was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he later died.

Janette, of Leith, said visiting had become too distressing and admitted she had not seen her brother regularly.

However, the great-grandmother, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Crohn’s disease, asked to be contacted in the event of any problems.

She said: “As far as I knew he was being cared for. If I hadn’t got the letter then I would still be under the illusion he was still in the home and still alive.”

Frank, 52, whose wife works in the care industry, said the levels of care had fallen way below standard. “Just for someone to pick up the phone and say they are very sorry, that would be something but there has been nothing. It makes you wonder how many times has it has happened before,” he said.

A complaint has been made to the Care Inspectorate, which will publish any findings if the complaint is upheld.

Monica Boyle, head of older people and disability services at Edinburgh City Council, admitted it was “clearly a very regrettable situation”. She said the council worked with other organisations involved in care to make sure the next of kin were kept informed.

“I will be writing to further offer our apologies and condolences, as well as an invitation to discuss the circumstances and see what support we can offer.”

The council has been unable to say where Jimmy’s ashes are.

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com