Mother’s anguish after discovering her baby’s empty coffin

Ms Reid will not rest until she knows what happened to her sons body. Picture: Toby Williams
Ms Reid will not rest until she knows what happened to her sons body. Picture: Toby Williams

A MUM’S 40-year hunt for the truth behind what happened to her dead baby’s remains has met with fresh heartache on discovering his coffin was buried with no body inside.

Lydia Reid, 68, has been trying to find out what happened to her son Gary Paton for 42 years after he died at Edinburgh’s Sick Kids in July 1975, aged just seven days old.

A court order was granted for an exhumation at the Saughton Cemetery burial plot but there was no evidence a body had ever been in the coffin.

In an interview with the BBC, Ms Reid said the news was “devastating”. “My heart hit my feet and I did not know what to say.

“It is devastating to know that all years I have been coming here to honour my son and he’s not been here.

“He is my son and he deserves the respect of a proper burial,” she said.

Ms Reid never had the chance to hold her baby and when she asked to see her son she was shown a child that was not hers.

“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 spent decades campaigning to expose how hospitals unlawfully kept dead children’s body parts for research. She suspects her son’s organs were taken without permission but has never found proof.

Leading forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black conducted the exhumation concluding that the coffin was buried with no skeletal remains and no sign of decomposition.

She said: “Ultimately there is only one possible logical explanation and that is that the body was not put in that coffin.

“Lydia believed the baby in the grave may not be hers. The aim was to find bone for DNA analysis.”

The coffin was found about 6ft down and identified by a misspelt nameplate.

Prof Black, the director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee, said: “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.

“So we had wool, cotton and even a little cross, all preserved incredibly well – but there were no human remains. 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.” And the professor said the execution of the “burial” indicates this is not an isolated incident and called for an investigation.

NHS Lothian said the matter had been referred to the police.