Legacy Independent Funeral Directors: Police 'unable to identify human ashes'

Legacy Funerals
Investigations started on 6 March. Credit: ITV News

Police say they have been unable to identify any of the human ashes recovered from a funeral firm at the centre of a major investigation.

The ashes, along with 35 bodies, were removed from Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull last month after police received a report of concern about the "care of the deceased".

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of fraud and preventing a lawful burial.

Humberside Police said they believed they knew the identities of all those whose bodies had been moved, but formal identification was still taking place.

In an update on Thursday 4 April, officers said the ashes were unidentifiable.

Assistant Chief Constable Thom McLoughlin said: "We have been working closely with forensic scientists and specialists to assess whether it was possible to extract DNA from the human ashes in order to identify them.

"Whilst the expert opinion provides us with assurance that the proper crematorium process had been followed, unfortunately, given the high temperature required to carry out a cremation, the DNA will have been broken down and degraded to such a level, that we would not be able to recover a meaningful DNA profile.

"This means that we are unable to identify any of the human ashes.

"This will, of course, be devastating news for families and loved ones and you have my heartfelt condolences at this difficult time."

'Fraudulent activity'

The force launched its investigation on 6 March after concerns were raised about "care for the deceased".

A team of 120 police officers and civilian staff has been working on the investigation and a dedicated phone line was set up for people with concerns.

On Thursday the force said it had received more than 2,000 calls.

Mr McLoughlin said a "significant number" were concerned about the identification of ashes.

"This weekend officers from the investigation team have been in contact with over 700 families to update them regarding the scientific advice and offer support," he said.

"In addition we have had a number of calls that relate to suspected financial and fraudulent activity. I have dedicated, specialist investigation teams carrying out numerous enquiries and following up on various leads and information."

A 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial and fraud remain on bail.

Checks on funeral directors

In the last three weeks, Hull City Council said checks had been carried out at 50 funeral directors in the wake of the investigation into Legacy.

The local authority say it was "very clear" the investigation was "in no way typical".

Speaking on Thursday, director of public protection Angela Dearing said: "While the sector is not formally regulated nationally, the visits were an opportunity for us to look at a number of key areas of funeral directors’ business.

"These voluntary visits were conducted in partnership with funeral directors, in order to give reassurances to customers and our local funeral directors.

"All the businesses we visited were receptive if any advice or suggestions were made."

Support for affected families

The council said affected families would not have to pay for new funerals for their loved ones.

A helpline remains open for practical and emotional support.

In a message to the public, director of public health Julia Weldon said: "We recognise that this has been an exceptionally difficult time for families and our community, my heart goes out to you all.

"I wanted to let you know we are here for all those affected directly or indirectly across our community.

“As the situation continues to move forward, there will be many more people in need of guidance, advice and support."

The 24-hour helpline number is 0808 281 1136.

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