Government ‘in dialogue’ with funeral industry over alleged Hull scandal

The Government is in “dialogue” with the funeral industry as police investigate an alleged scandal at a business in Hull, the Prime Minister has said.

Legacy Independent Funeral Directors is the subject of an investigation after officers recovered 35 bodies and suspected human ashes from the Hull-based firm.

Officers cordoned off three of the company’s sites after the force received a report last week of concerns about the “storage and management processes relating to care of the deceased”.

Rishi Sunak was speaking during a visit to Gloucester RFC's stadium in Gloucester (Leon Neal/PA)
Rishi Sunak was speaking during a visit to Gloucester RFC’s stadium in Gloucester (Leon Neal/PA)

Speaking during a visit to Gloucester, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Government was reviewing the regulation of the funeral industry in the wake of the alleged scandal.

“I think when any family experiences that loss, what they deserve is dignity and respect that they need at that particular point in time,” Mr Sunak said.

“And some of the things that we’ve been hearing about are obviously very concerning and I can’t comment on live investigations.

“What I would say is, from our point of view, we’re already in a dialogue with the industry to make sure that (dignity and respect) it is provided to people when they need it.

“We’re reviewing the regulation of the industry, and in the meantime, working with trade bodies who are focused on codes of practice and self-regulation.

“We’re engaging with them to make sure that’s happening but also reviewing the regulation of the industry and in general overall.”

Humberside Police, which is investigating the Hull-based firm, said it had received more than 1,000 calls as part of its inquiries.

Some “heartbroken” family members have spoken of their concerns following the probe, with one woman saying she believed she kissed an empty coffin at her father’s funeral.

Deputy Chief Constable Dave Marshall told reporters the force was investigating a “truly horrific incident” during a press conference on Tuesday.

Flowers continued to be laid at the site on Hessle Road on Wednesday morning after families from Hull and East Yorkshire took to social media to express their concerns over what may have happened to their relatives’ bodies.

Billie-Jo Suffill, a mother of three from Hull, said she felt “physically sick” after not receiving her father’s ashes.

Flowers are left outside the Hessle Road branch of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull (Dave Higgens/PA)
Flowers are left outside the Hessle Road branch of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in Hull (Dave Higgens/PA)

She told the Daily Mirror newspaper: “I bet my dad was not even in the coffin – it was an empty coffin.

“I was kissing an empty coffin. When I think about it, it is disgusting. It’s like something out of a horror movie.

“I wonder if this will stop at 35 bodies. I think my dad is one of them.”

A friend of a widow told The Times newspaper the body of her late husband, which was supposed to have been cremated, was discovered in the firm’s freezers eight months later.

The newspaper said three generations of the family had been wearing jewellery they believed had been made from his ashes.

The family friend said: “The widow is distraught. The family thought they had his remains and are now asking, ‘If it’s not him, then who is it?’

“They are now grieving again, they have lost that closure that a funeral gives you.”

Police remained at the firm’s Hessle Road site on Wednesday and flowers had been left in front of the shuttered doors of the premises with messages such as “RIP you beautiful souls”.

The force confirmed more than 120 police and civilian staff were working on the case on Tuesday.

The bodies were removed between Friday morning and Saturday evening, the force said.

Formal identification is taking place at Hull’s city mortuary.

Legacy Independent Funeral Directors is owned by Robert Bush, according to Companies House.

Mr Marshall said it was an “extremely complex and sensitive investigation”, and pledged to put the “heartbroken families” at the core of the inquiry.

He said: “Many will be shocked, horrified and retraumatised through grief following the disclosure of the facts of this case this week.”

The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM), which provides training for those working within the bereavement services, called for funeral directors to be regulated after the probe was announced.

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