Mortonhall babies’ squalid resting place revealed

Dame Elish said the land where the ashes were interred 'would not be considered . . . as a decent area'. Picture: contributed
Dame Elish said the land where the ashes were interred 'would not be considered . . . as a decent area'. Picture: contributed
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THIS is the shabby patch of land next to tractors and skips where Mortonhall Crematorium staff dumped babies’ ashes.

Dame Elish Angiolini was not shown this ground behind the Garden of Remembrance in Mortonhall Crematorium during her site visits as part of her wide-ranging investigation, but later learned of its use from a witness.

In her report she said the land appeared to be “undulating” as if there had been “several holes or lairs dug up and covered with turf over a period of time”.

Some “rough decking” was loosely placed.

Lying outwith the Garden of Remembrance, Dame Elish concluded baby ashes were “interred in a place which would not be considered by any objective observer as a decent area [for] the internment of remains”.

Former crematorium superintendent Anne Grannum told the inquiry that “coffin ash” was buried there, but experts testified such remains would include ashes from babies.

Ms Grannum told the ­inquiry: “They would be ­buried next to the skip” but denies ever seeing baby bones after cremation at Mortonhall – run for many years by ­manager George Bell.

Willie Reid, chairman of the Mortonhall Ashes Action ­Committee, described the practice of burying ashes in an unmarked scrap of ground “appalling”.

He said: “We don’t know if babies have been mixed up with adults, whether they’ve been swept up and put in the Garden of Remembrance or this nondescript scrap of land.

“George Bell has come out issuing an apology but this is far too little far too late.

“He and Anne Grannum were responsible for what was happening there. Regardless of what their beliefs were treating human ash in this way is disgraceful and these people need to have a hard look at themselves and bring the whole truth to the parents.”

It comes as First Minister Alex Salmond ­announced an extra £100,000 to fund counselling for ­families affected by the ­Mortonhall ashes scandal.

Mr Salmond also pledged to implement the recommendations in Dame Elish’s ­report and said proposals, due later this month, from Lord ­Bonomy’s commission on ­infant cremation would be taken into legislation “at the earliest possible moment”.

Sue Bruce, chief executive of Edinburgh City Council ,said: “We are actively considering the future landscaping ­requirements of this area which will be developed in consultation with parents.

“This is one of the report’s recommendations which will be taken forward by the multi-agency working group.

“The group will come up with a detailed action plan to be discussed by the council next month to ensure that the highest possible standards are adhered to at Mortonhall in the future.”

Officials linked to the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal 
will be questioned by ­councillors at a special public summit set up in the wake of Dame Elish Angiolini’s ­damning report.

The hearing, similar to a restorative justice forum, will also allow families affected by the tragedy to tell their heart-breaking stories before questioning takes place.