Mortonhall: Grieving parents fear more twists

Dorothy Maitland of Sands said she and other parents are tired of waiting. Picture: contributed
Dorothy Maitland of Sands said she and other parents are tired of waiting. Picture: contributed
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PARENTS waiting anxiously for tomorrow’s publication of the delayed Mortonhall report have spoken of their dread at what lies in store.

Former lord advocate Dame Elish Angiolini’s report, originally due to be completed in January, was delivered to City Chambers two weeks ago, but its conclusions remain under wraps.

However, many believe that even with its publication, they will still need further answers, calling again for a full-scale public inquiry into the baby ashes scandal.

The report, understood to be 650 pages long, has taken 15 months to complete since Dame Elish was appointed last January to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the actions and practices of staff at the council-run crematorium since it opened in 1967.

It was in December 2012, the Evening News revealed that, for more than four decades, parents who had lost a baby minutes or days after birth, as well as those who had suffered a stillborn birth, had been told there were no ashes.

In fact, the remains were collected and buried in unmarked ground. It is believed this practice only ended in 2011 when management at the crematorium changed.

Dorothy Maitland, operations manager of Sands Lothians, the bereavement charity which uncovered the scandal, revealed parents were feeling increasingly anxious.

She said: “The wait has just been awful, and this last fortnight since we’ve known the report has been with the council, has been the worst.

“I don’t understand quite why it’s taken the council so long to get it to us after they received it, but the waiting is excruciating.

“Some of us have spoken to Dame Elish recently and she has told us not to expect that what we’ve been told is the truth, so now we have no idea what the report might say.

“You can’t help it but your imagination runs wild and you think of all kinds of horrific things – were babies cremated all together? Were they buried together instead of individually as we’d been told?

“You begin to wonder whether you can believe anything about this whole scandal, and it’s no wonder that demands for a full public inquiry are growing.”

Ms Maitland, who was told in December 2012 that the ashes of her daughter Kaelen were buried at Mortonhall in 1986 without her knowledge, added: “Lots of parents have arranged to take days off work now we know it will be tomorrow, but they feel angry that the council has had the report for two weeks already.”

The council has said it “appreciates the anxiety” of parents to read the report.

Another parent, Arlene McDougall, said her health had declined during the long wait for the report. She and her husband Gary lost their son, Fraser, in 1999.

She said: “Sometimes I feel as if I won’t even make it to see this report. I can’t sleep, I keep being sick, I’m on anti-depressants, I’m off work on sick leave and I still don’t really feel that we’ll get a final answer tomorrow.”