Grieving Edinburgh mum's 46 year fight for remains of her dead baby could be over in weeks

A battling mother who wants to lay her infant son’s 'remains’ to rest along with close relatives has launched a hunger strike to prevent them being destroyed.

By Stephen Wilkie
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 1:39 pm

Lydia Reid has pitched a tent outside the Edinburgh HQ of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in a last-ditch attempt to halt the medical ‘slides and blocks’ being handed over by health chiefs to Police Scotland.

An independent firm of forensic experts previously used by Ms Reid has been tasked with testing the samples to prove they belong to her baby boy Gary Paton.

But Ms Reid fears the last remaining physical evidence of tiny Gary’s existence could be destroyed during the laboratory procedures, ending any hopes of ‘reuniting’ him with dead relatives in a family lair.

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There was no hair inside the hat, no bone inside the coffin shroud.' (University of Dundee Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification)

The samples are held by NHS Lothian, which Ms Reid is taking to court alleging illegal removal and retention of Gary’s remains.

However, the handover is taking place this week and testing will prove if they do belong to her son and bring to an end her decades long fight to lay him to rest.

Despite this, Ms Reid, 72, said: “We want the parts of my son back for burial. These tests will destroy them.

A plaque in honour of baby Gary Paton. Picture: Kate Chandler

“We need a public inquiry. Pathologists are still keeping samples of dead children for research. It has to be stopped.”

Ms Reid has been trying to find out what happened to Gary after he died at Edinburgh's Sick Kids in July 1975, aged just seven days old. She was shown a dead infant but maintains it did not resemble Gary’s colouring or size.

A court order was granted for an exhumation at the Saughton Cemetery burial plot in 2017 but there was no evidence a body had ever been in the coffin.

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."

She added: “"So we had wool, cotton, a hat 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."

A spokesperson for the COPFS said: “We appreciate that it has been a difficult time for Ms Reid.

“COPFS has a responsibility to establish the facts in this matter which should provide Ms Reid with answers.

“While the investigation is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “In order to fully establish the circumstances and seek answers for the family, the COPFS has directed Police Scotland to obtain biological samples from NHS Lothian.

“The samples will be provided directly to an independent forensic service provider for testing and returned to NHS Lothian once analysis is complete. Lydia Reid will be kept fully updated on the findings.”

NHS Lothian cannot comment as there is ongoing legal action.

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