Bodies removed from funeral directors as police investigating a ‘truly horrific incident’

Police who have removed the bodies of 35 people and the suspected ashes of a number of others from a funeral directors have said they are investigating a “truly horrific incident”.

Humberside Police pledged to put the “heartbroken families” of those affected at the core of its investigation into Hull-based Legacy Independent Funeral Directors as it confirmed that a 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman arrested in connection with the inquiry have been released on bail.

Specialist officers were continuing to search three of the firm’s sites, in Hull and Beverley, East Yorkshire, on Tuesday as the force confirmed more than 120 police and civilian staff are working on the case.

Concerned families from Hull and East Yorkshire have taken to social media to express their concerns over what may have happened to their relatives’ bodies after they were entrusted to Legacy for funerals.

Deputy Chief Constable David Marshall told a press conference in North Ferriby on Tuesday: “We are continuing to support the families involved through this extremely difficult and distressing time.”

Mr Marshall added: “This has been a truly horrific incident.”

He said families were “understandably distraught” and acknowledged that they had many questions that needed to be answered.

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.”

Assistant Chief Constable Thom McLoughlin told reporters more than 1,000 calls had been received from concerned members of the public.

Mr McLoughlin said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to speak directly to the families and loved ones affected by this truly terrible set of circumstances.

“My heart goes out to you all and I can only imagine how distressing and upsetting it will be for you and your families.

“I know that they will want or need much more information than I can give you today.

“But as we progress with the investigation, I want to reassure you that we will provide you updates as soon as we can and I also want to give you a personal commitment that I will do everything possible to give you the answers that you deserve.”

He added: “We have now recovered a total of 35 deceased who have now been respectfully transported to the mortuary in Hull and formal identification procedures are now taking place.

“In addition, we have also recovered a quantity of what we suspect to be human ashes.

“We are in the process of carefully recovering all of those ashes and taking those to the mortuary.”

Mr McLoughlin said: “I recognise that this is a distressing time for all of those affected and I have no doubt it will have a significant impact across all our local communities and beyond.”

The Assistant Chief Constable said the investigation was at a critical stage and the Humberside force was drawing on support nationally with more than 120 officers and staff working on inquiry.

He said this “reflects the sheer size and scale of this investigation”.

Officers cordoned off three Legacy Independent Funeral Directors sites after the force received a report on Wednesday of concerns about the “storage and management processes relating to care of the deceased”.

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

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

On Tuesday, there was still a large police presence at the firm’s Hessle Road site and flowers had been left in front of the shuttered doors of the premises.

The 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman who have now been released on bail, pending further inquiries, were detained on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position have been released on bail, the force said.

Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West and Hessle, told BBC Radio 5Live it had been a “complete shock to me and complete shock to the community”.

She said: “Everybody’s just reeling from it. People are not quite believing that something’s happened and there are hundreds of questions, which I completely understand everybody has at the moment.”

Ms Hardy said: “There are lots of different questions around ashes, around people who are still living and have plans with the company and, of course, questions from the families very closely involved.”

She said: “It’s impacted everybody.”

On Tuesday, 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.

Chief executive Julie Dunk said: “It is shocking to hear of the police investigation into the funeral directors in Hull.

“We all place such faith in those we entrust our relatives and friends to when they die.

“Fortunately, such incidences are rare, and the vast majority of funeral directors take care of deceased people entrusted to them to the standard you would expect.

“However, in a sector that is unregulated and competitive, there is room for standards to slip.

“We would therefore urge the Government to now consider some form of regulation and inspection for funeral director businesses to stop any such breaches and ensure that bereaved people can have the reassurance they expect and deserve.”

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