Lydia Reid has campaigned for 42 years to find out what happened to her son’s body. Picture: BBC
Lydia Reid has campaigned for 42 years to find out what happened to her son’s body. Picture: BBC

Mum discovers newborn’s coffin is empty

A MUM who has campaigned tirelessly for 42 years to find out what happened to her dead son has discovered his coffin was buried with no body inside.

Lydia Reid has described the news as "devastating" after she was granted a Scottish court order for an exhumation to be carried out at the burial plot in Edinburgh last week, The Sun reports.

But no human remains of her baby Gary were found in Saughton Cemetery. The exhumation was conducted by forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black and her report concluded that the coffin was buried without human remains.

Along with the coffin, with a nameplate that had spelled Gary's name incorrectly, the academic found a shawl, a hat, a cross, and a name tag. She said there were no skeletal remains and no sign of decomposition.

"Ultimately there is only one possible logical explanation and that is that the body was not put in that coffin," she said.

Ms Reid's son was just seven days old when he died at Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children in 1975.

She said that when she asked to see her son, she was shown a child that wasn't hers.

"I objected but they said I was suffering from post-natal depression. This baby was blonde and big, my baby was tiny and dark-haired. This was not my son," she told BBC Scotland.

A hat and shroud were recovered from the coffin, but there was no trace of human remains. Picture: BBCSource:Supplied
A hat and shroud were recovered from the coffin, but there was no trace of human remains. Picture: BBCSource:Supplied

The 68-year-old has campaigned for more than four decades to find out what happened to her son. She was a leading figure in the Scottish push to expose how hospitals had unlawfully retained dead children's body parts for research.

Scottish NHS bosses were forced to admit the widespread practice after an investigation into organ retention at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool.

About 6000 organs and tissues were retained by Scottish hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many from children.

Ms Reid continued to suspect her son's organs were taken without permission, but she hasn't any proof.

Professor Black, an internationally renowned forensic scientist, said: "So we had wool, cotton 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.

"There is no hair inside the hat; there is no bone inside the coffin shroud. It was not there and I have never seen that before."

Ms Reid said: "I wanted to prove the fact that he wasn't there. Until I could prove that he wasn't there I could not fight to find him. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be called a stupid old woman but the minute Sue lifted the shawl out of the ground I knew there was nothing in it.

"My heart hit my feet and I did not know what to say. It is devastating to know that all years I have been coming here to honour my son and he's not been here. He is my son and he deserves the respect of a proper burial."

She is certain that someone knows what happened to her baby son.

She said: "Even if he has been incinerated I want to know. Even if he is lying in a jar in a hospital somewhere I want to know. If it is possible to get my son back, I want my son back. If it is not possible then at least tell me and let me have peace."

Ms Reid said she knew from her time in the organ scandal campaign that there would be other cases like hers.

Gary’s name was spelt incorrectly on a nameplate on top of the coffin. Picture: BBCSource:Supplied
Gary’s name was spelt incorrectly on a nameplate on top of the coffin. Picture: BBCSource:Supplied

Professor Black said: "If I was a betting woman I would say this is not an isolated incident and the reason is that it seems to incredibly well executed. There will have to be an investigation of some sort. I've never come across anything like this before."

Funeral directors Scotmid Co-operative Funerals said as soon as they heard of the allegations they informed the cops.

A statement said: "We also recently met with Ms Reid and close members of her family to offer our full support in what has been an extremely distressing situation for them. We hope that our actions in contacting the police will help give Ms Reid the answers to the questions she has raised about her son's funeral."

NHS bosses expressed their condolences with Ms Reid and her family, confirming that cops were looking into the case.

NHS Lothian deputy chief executive Jim Crombie said: "Our condolences are with the family of Gary Paton. This matter is now being looked into by the police and we are unable to comment further."

This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been republished here with permission.

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