Mum in £75k legal bid after finding out baby’s coffin had lay empty for 45 years

A mum in a 45-year fight for her dead baby's remains after an empty coffin scandal is suing a funeral directors and prosecutors for £75,000.

Lydia Reid, 71, has always maintained the body she was shown after her son Gary Baton died at an Edinburgh Hospital in 1975 was not her week-old son.

Three years ago a forensic expert confirmed the coffin he was supposedly buried in had held no remains.

She has now launched legal proceedings against the Crown Office and Scotmid Cooperative Funeral, who dealt with Gary's burial.

The mum, from Clermiston, Edinburgh, told the Daily Record : “The first of the legal cases have just been served on them. We’re suing them for £75,000 over the fact that they didn’t put my son in the grave.

“We are holding them jointly responsible as we believe Scotmid gave us an empty coffin.

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“It’s been three years since we discovered Gary wasn’t in his grave. We thought we would get his ashes returned to us after that and he could be laid to rest, but nothing has changed.”

The other legal case is to force the return of blocks and slides containing samples of her son’s organs taken during his post mortem so the family can give Gary a proper burial if they are proved to belong to him.

Gary’s brother Steven, 47, who is helping his mum in her fight, also told the Record of his “nightmare” at not being able to fulfil the dying wish of his late father Bruce, who wanted to be laid to rest alongside his son when he passed away in January.

When Gary died at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Lydia claims staff told her she was ill and suffering from post-natal depression because she refused to accept the body they had shown her was her baby’s.

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She never gave up fighting for answers in the decades that followed and in August 2017 Gary’s burial plot at Saughton Cemetery was exhumed after Lydia won a court order.

Leading forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black examined the site and said there were no skeletal remains and no sign of decomposition.

Instead, Prof Black found a shawl, a hat, a cross and a name tag in the burial plot, as well as the disintegrated coffin with Gary’s name spelt incorrectly.

At the time, Prof Black said there was “only one possible logical explanation” – that the body was “not put in that coffin”.

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Lydia said: “The police reckon there is a spot on the shroud that proves decomposition. They are trying to prove that a hair that was found in the hat had rotted. They say they have done tests which prove he was in that grave but it’s just not possible.

“Sue Black’s report says it all. There was no sign of decomposition.”

The NHS has previously admitted that about 6000 organs and tissue samples were retained by Scottish hospitals between 1970 and 2000 – many from children.

Lydia has led the fight with many other parents to expose how children’s body parts were unlawfully retained, against their parents’ knowledge, for research.

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She says Police Scotland have offered to carry out DNA testing to prove the organ samples the Crown hold belong to Gary, but Lydia wants an independent lab to deal with the case.

Lydia, who lost another son, Bruce junior, in 2006 aged just 33, said the matter is now stuck in “stalemate”.

She said: “They won’t even give me back those parts of my son so that we can open the grave and have what little we have buried. They belong to me.

“He was only 4lb 2oz. There are block and slides which I suspect are most of Gary’s organs.

“I wouldn’t trust them to test these parts of my son. It’s all I’ve got left of him.

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“I want this to be dealt with by an independent, professional company who have no agenda. They will give truthful information but also ensure I get every single piece back.

“Are they keeping this going in the hope I’ll kick the bucket? Because I’m not going to give up or keep fighting for Gary and for other parents. They’re not going to keep me quiet.”

Lydia’s son Steven said he would help his mum uncover the truth of what happened to his little brother.

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He said: “My dad’s final wishes were to be buried with part of my brother’s ashes. It seems to me the case is just being held back on purpose and it’s been three years of torture.

“My mum and dad were divorced years ago and didn’t really talk but when my parents found out Gary’s body wasn’t in the grave it was the first time they’d talked for years. It united them.

“My mum was always honest about what she felt had happened and it affected my big brother as well quite badly. Mum was so determined and it had been hanging over the family for years.

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“To find out what my mum believed was true after all those years of people calling her crazy and blaming post-natal depression, there is an anger there.

“I just want the truth for my brother. It might turn out that Gary’s wasn’t the only empty grave out there.”

Lydia added: “My sister has passed away too and she too wanted her ashes put beside Gary in the family grave.

“All these people are waiting for their last goodbye. This is a huge responsibility to leave to my grandchildren so I’m not going to give up.”

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Lydia’s solicitor Mark Thorley, at Thorley Stephenson, has confirmed legal proceedings are now under way.

James Blackburn, Head of Scotmid Co-operative Funerals, said: “There are no words we can offer that will alleviate the anguish suffered by Mrs Reid in this difficult situation.

“When we learnt of the circumstances, our first actions were to meet with Mrs Reid and her family, and to refer the matter to the police.

“We will continue to offer our full cooperation in any legal process. We genuinely regret that Mrs Reid still has unanswered questions, from many quarters. This must be an incredibly difficult time for her and we will play our part in what is clearly an important process.

“As there is an ongoing police investigation, with which we are cooperating fully, and now a civil court action, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further.”

A Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service spokesman added: “The investigation is ongoing. As such it would not be appropriate to comment at this time.”

A police spokesman said: "Police Scotland has a dedicated enquiry team who have been investigating this matter since it was reported to us and we continue to undertake a number of lines of enquiry to fully understand the circumstances.

"Police Scotland continue to work closely with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to seek answers for the family."

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