ITV investigation uncovers disrespect, exploitation and racism in funeral business

Staff carry a body into an undertaker's van. Bodies were stockpiled because of a lack of refrigeration space. Credit: ITV Exposure

An ITV investigation into British funeral directors has uncovered disturbing evidence of disrespect, financial exploitation and even racism aimed at the both living and the dead.

ITV1's new Exposure series sent two undercover reporters to work with two of the four companies that make up 40% of the British funeral industry.

Among the shocking incidents they witnessed:

  • Funeral staff chant 'Chelsea scum' at a corpse before sealing his coffin

  • Staff driving a hearse watch pornography on a mobile phone

  • A member of staff applying preservative gel to a corpse jokes, 'I've got the t**ties'

In one excerpt, an embalmer employed by Funeral Partners Limited, is seen singing whilst tending a body:

Worth over £1bn a year, it is perhaps no surprise that the funeral industry is proving increasingly attractive in an economic downturn.

What surprised the ITV Exposure reporters is that while every effort is made to increase healthy bottom lines, far less effort was made to provide the service customers expect when you're burying a loved one.

Undercover journalists witnessed some funeral staff not bothering to dress the deceased in clothes that families had provided.

They also saw a widow complain about an "awful" smell at her own husband's funeral because the body had been left unrefrigerated for six days.

When she complained, the widow was racially abused by a pallbearer standing just feet away from mourners outside the church.

Phillip Greenfield, chief executive of Funeral Partners Ltd, has since apologised for the inappropriate behaviour of his staff.

He said: ‘We have launched an internal investigation and an external company is reviewing procedures in all our businesses.’

  • Exposure: The British Way of Death airs on ITV1 at 10:35 pm on Wednesday 26th September

ITV Exposure wishes to thank the following organisations, who can advise customers on reputable funeral directors: