Second parent goes to the police over scandal of Mortonhall ashes

David Blair's son, David, died just hours after being born premature

David Blair's son, David, died just hours after being born premature

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POLICE officers probing the Mortonhall ashes scandal have received a second complaint from a grieving family, the Evening News can reveal.

CID detectives have taken a statement from one parent. Now a second complaint has been lodged, with officers bracing themselves for a flood of calls on the matter.

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman today confirmed the force had received the second complaint. He said: “Lothian and Borders Police has received a further complaint in relation to Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh, taking the total to two.

“Both complaints will be thoroughly assessed in order to determine whether any further police action is appropriate.”

We told in a front page story yesterday how the scandal had developed to become a police matter. Toni Franchitti, 53, from Gifford, believes his son John Paul, born at the former Elsie Inglis Maternity Unit at Abbeyhill on August 16, 1978, is caught up in the scandal. Mr Franchitti is a cousin of the race ace Dario Franchitti.

Solicitor Patrick McGuire, who is representing a number of parents, told a packed public meeting on Wednesday how a criminal investigation is warranted. Mr McGuire, of Thompsons Solicitors, said: “It’s only a matter of time before we see many more complaints lodged with the police.”

Following the firm’s advice, a number of other parents are now expected to lodge complaints after being told that being part of an ongoing criminal investigation would not preclude them from partaking in any eventual public inquiry.

Meanwhile Sands Lothians, the charity which broke the scandal, has issued a funding plea as it struggles to field hundreds of calls from anguished parents while juggling its regular counselling and support service. The service – which costs £95,000 a year to run – has been stretched following the recent revelations that Mortonhall Crematorium staff failed to pass on babies ashes for more than 45 years.

Operations manager Dorothy Maitland said: “In total we have five part-time members of staff, two counsellors, two admin and myself, and since this scandal broke we have been working full-time hours. It’s been non-stop, we’ve been inundated by calls and complaints and this increased service has been a considerable drain on our resources. We receive no government funding and could do with some financial assistance.”

Aside from criminal proceedings against former crematorium employees, the main demand of anguished parents has been for a full public inquiry to be held into the practices at the site.

It has since emerged that the scandal may not be confined to just Edinburgh after the city council said its initial inquiries “suggest there are variations in practice across Scotland”.

Mike Rosendale, head of schools and community services, has also recommended in a report to go before councillors next week that an independent person be appointed to oversee and direct a probe into the revelations.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com