Funeral chief charged after cremation mix-up quits job

A LOTHIANS funeral chief has quit amid allegations a baby was wrongfully cremated.

Scotmid has revealed Graeme Skidmore, its head of funeral services, left the company with immediate effect last week.

Yesterday, Skidmore, 44, of Leslie Way, Dunbar, and co-accused Mark Eshelby, appeared in court charged with conspiring to prevent the lawful burial of two dead bodies more than nine years ago.

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It is alleged that an empty baby's casket was buried at the Chapel of Rest in Cromwell Road, York, on New Year's Eve, 1998, while the child was put in another coffin alongside the body of an elderly woman, and incinerated at York Crematorium in Bishopthorpe Road.

The child's parents were not aware of what had happened and continued to visit the grave for years afterwards.

It was only when York Crematorium reportedly became the subject of an investigation by York City Council that police became involved. They reportedly exhumed the child's coffin to discover it was empty.

Malcolm Brown, head of corporate communications at Scotmid, said: "I can confirm that Graeme Skidmore was head of funeral services for Scotmid for four years, but quite recently Graeme offered his resignation to us and we accepted it. That resignation was immediate and Graeme has left the business."

He added that Scotmid was "aware" of the court proceedings against Mr Skidmore. Yesterday, Skidmore and Eshelby, 47, of Londonderry, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, appeared before magistrates in York in relation to conspiring to prevent the burial of Evelyn Sayner and Benjamin Judson.

Both men were granted conditional bail and told to appear at York Crown Court on March 12. They spoke only to confirm their details and that they understood the proceedings during the ten-minute hearing.

A spokesperson for United Co-operatives, the company which organised the two York funerals, said last week that its thoughts and sympathies were with the two families involved, and that it hoped to be able to minimise the distress caused to them.

A spokeswoman for the Childhood Bereavement Trust was reported as saying: "The death of a child is particularly difficult.

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The funeral is the family's opportunity to say their last goodbye to their child, and as such it is important that families are able to do things in whatever way feels appropriate to them, to their customs, culture and beliefs."

Deborah Kilvington, manager of York Crematorium, is the subject of a disciplinary investigation by York City Council and is currently suspended. However, Terry Collins, director of Neighbourhood Services at City of York Council, reportedly said the investigation is not linked to the charges facing Skidmore and Eshelby.

"The council is aware of the police investigation and is co-operating fully. The council was made aware of the allegations and informed the police," he said.

"We can confirm that a member of staff is the subject of a disciplinary investigation regarding unrelated allegations."

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