After 40 years, bereaved mother proves her infant son’s coffin was empty

The NHS in Scotland was forced to admit to having unlawfully retained about 6,000 organs and tissues in hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many of which belonged to children

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 6:42pm

A mother who campaigned for more than 40 years to find out what happened to her dead baby’s remains has found out his coffin was buried without a body inside.

Lydia Reid, 68, was given a court order for the exhumation of the grave of her son Gary, who died at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh in July 1975 aged seven days old. But no human remains were found.

The exhumation was performed by forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black, who found only a hat, a shawl, a cross and a name tag that had spelt Gary’s name incorrectly.

Reid, who played a leading role in the Scottish campaign to uncover the unlawful retention of dead children’s body parts for research, said the news was “devastating”.

She told the BBC: “We had the funeral, and on the day of the funeral I stated clearly there’s nothing in this coffin. The coffin was light. I know the weight of a baby.

We had the funeral, and on the day of the funeral I stated clearly there’s nothing in this coffin. The coffin was light
Lydia Reid

“The coffin was light. My son was not there. And again, nobody believed me. Nobody believed me.

“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. I didn’t know what to say.

“They know what happened to my son. They know fine and well that they have that knowledge and they can give me peace. They can find my son. Even if he’s been incinerated – I want to know.

“Even if he’s lying in a jar in a hospital somewhere – I want to know. If it’s possible to get my son back, I want my son back. If it’s not, then at least tell me and let me have peace.”

The NHS in Scotland was forced to admit to having unlawfully retained about 6,000 organs and tissues in hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many of which belonged to children.

Reid has long suspected her son’s organs had been removed without permission but she has never found proof. She convinced Prof Black to carry out DNA tests on the remains, and was granted a court order for an exhumation.

Black told the BBC: “Ultimately there is only one possible logical explanation and that is that the body was not put in that 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.”