Mortonhall scandal: Inquiry questions ex-bosses

Dame Elish Angiolini's full report will be published in the autumm. Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

Dame Elish Angiolini's full report will be published in the autumm. Picture: Mark Runnacles/PA Wire

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THE former bosses of Mortonhall Crematorium have been interviwed as part of the inquiry into the baby ashes scandal, with the initial findings set to be released within days.

A full report on the Edinburgh City Council-led inquiry being compiled by Dame Elish Angiolini is on track to be published in the autumn.

However, preliminary findings are on the verge of being released by the former Lord Advocate, who has grilled past crematorium superintendents George Bell and Ann Grannum along with NHS Lothian staff.

The release of fresh information has been months in the making for grieving parents still seeking answers over why they were not offered ashes from baby cremations carried out at the Howdenhall Road facility. The scandal first emerged in December last year when bereavement charity Sands Lothian revealed the cremated ashes of new and stillborn babies had been buried without parents’ knowledge at Mortonhall for more than four decades.

Sands operations manager Dorothy Maitland, who met with Dame Elish just over a week ago, said: “I’d like to see her investigation finished before we really start pushing for a public inquiry.

“She’s interviewed past and present staff from Mortonhall, including George Bell and Ann Grannum, so they have co-operated.

“NHS staff have also been interviewed. I don’t know what she’s going to bring out in this report, but she says she’s on track and hopefully by the autumn she’ll be able to release her full findings.

“She assured me that she’s leaving no stone uncovered.”

Affected parents are expected to be interviewed over the next two months by Dame Elish.

Mr Bell had previously conceded in a letter that it was impossible to guarantee that the remains of the child, and not the ashes of the coffin, were left following the cremation process.

Mortonhall Ashes Action Committee (MAAC) chairman Willie Reid said: “I’m expecting absolutely nothing out of this report.

“In fairness, Dame Elish has met with representatives, but regardless of whatever she brings out we still need a public inquiry.”

Calls from MAAC for at least one parent to be involved in a Scottish Government independent commission into the cremation of babies across Scotland to ensure transparency has been knocked back.

An email from commission chairman Lord Bonomy said: “I am entirely satisfied that the existing members will undertake their remit diligently, objectively, impartially and openly.”

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said the authority was content with the progress made by Dame Elish so far, but added: “It’s worth remembering that there’s a large amount of complex work to be done, and accuracy and reliability are important factors in this work as well as the overall time-scale.”