Grieving mum sets up charity to assist repatriation process

Agnes Patterson
Agnes Patterson
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A MOTHER who lost her son in a tragic accident is to set up a charity to help bring home Scots killed abroad after her own “nightmare” experience.

Agnes Patterson’s son Thomas, 21, died on a duel carriageway in Alicante, Spain, after being hit by a car in July 2009.

Thomas Patterson

Thomas Patterson

She said the repatriation process cost around £4500 and heaped additional strain on a family already devastated by grief.

Now, alongside several other Scots, Mrs Patterson aims to launch a charity supporting grief-stricken families struggling to bring home relatives who have died overseas.

“It’s horrendous what you have to go through in these cases when you have just begun grieving,” said the Moredun mother.

“People often have to go straight out with the begging bowl when they have lost a loved one abroad, fundraising to get the body taken home. Repatriation companies can almost charge what they like. People have got to be made aware of what can happen.”

If travellers die without insurance cover, or if the insurers fail to pay out, families must meet the cost of transporting the body back to native soil.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will not pay for repatriation or cover the cost of burial overseas.

While Mrs Patterson escaped the added anxiety of fundraising, she was left “helpless” by the FCO, and was shocked that the government took such a hands-off role in the repatriation process.

“We were lucky enough that Thomas’ cousins, who were with him in Spain, paid it over there,” she said. “If it hadn’t been the case I would have had to borrow or start fundraising to get him home.

“The FCO do nothing at all. If you are in jail they might help but if you have died they are not interested. When you phone them, they give you an advice pack but don’t assist in anyway.

“I was given no support from the FCO – it’s a disgrace.”

Tomorrow, Mrs Patterson will join other parents and relatives aggrieved at the government’s repatriation policy to submit a constitution with the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations to form their own charity DAYNA – Death Abroad You’re Not Alone.

The volunteer-run group aims to be the first point of contact for bereaved families whose loved one has died abroad, providing advice, support and, possibly, funding for repatriation.

“There are no other charities doing anything like this,” Agnes added. “This is completely unique.”

A statement in the FCO’s Guide for Bereaved Families reads: “The FCO is unable to pay any burial, cremation or repatriation expenses or settle any debts. You should look, in the first instance, to the insurers to cover the cost.

“If your friend or relative was not insured, then friends and family will be asked to bear the cost. We can help transfer money from friends and family in the UK to pay these costs.”