Ten-year legal row sees bodies lie in mortuary

The former fishmongers shop on Gilmore Place
The former fishmongers shop on Gilmore Place
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A SON’S bid to make a private mausoleum for his parents has led to them lying in a city mortuary for ten years after a legal wrangle with the council.

The couple, who died in 1987 and 1994, were moved to Edinburgh City Mortuary, in the Cowgate, after being found in the basement of a former fishmonger’s in the Capital’s Polwarth area in 2002.

The bodies of Eugenios Marcel and his wife, Hilda, have remained in the mortuary ever since, with the council unable to gain family consent to bury or cremate them.

It is understood one of the couple’s two sons – a registered undertaker who is believed to have kept the bodies of his parents in the shop in Gilmore Place because he could not bear to let them go – had hoped to convert his home in the Capital into a private mausoleum, to store their bodies.

The complex nature of that application is the root of the ongoing legal action with the council, which has prevented the bodies from being interred.

Matters have been further complicated by the son moving away from the Capital around eight years ago, leaving only a PO Box address for contact.

Mr Marcel died of prostate cancer in 1994 at the age of 91. His wife, Hilda, died seven years earlier in 1987, after suffering lung failure. She was 68.

When they were discovered, the father had already been dead for eight years and the mother for 15 years.

The two bodies – perfectly embalmed and lying in coffins – were discovered in 2002 by officers investigating allegations of fraud at a West Lothian undertakers.

It was alleged that staff at a funeral home in Broxburn had been paid to preserve the bodies, and four members of staff were later sacked. Both deaths had been registered under law however, and death certificates issued.

After an initial police investigation into the find, no charges were brought.

An Edinburgh City Council spokesman said: “This is a unique case with very unusual circumstances. However, we are hopeful that this matter can be resolved in the near future.”

Professor Roderick Paisley, a law lecturer from Aberdeen University, said there are laws which give the local authority the power to act. He said: “If no-one else is dealing with it, the council have a right [to cremate]. They also have a statutory duty imposed by an act of parliament requiring them to attend to the proper disposal of the bodies. The family have no veto on that at all.”

It is not unusual for bodies to be stored for long periods but only if they cannot be identified.

The city council said they have been in regular communication with them trying to resolve this situation, as recently as this year.