Here’s a curious case of what looks to me like damnable stupidity whose aftermath is irreparable emotional damage. I can think of no reason for the undertaker in the following case to have behaved as he did – to have forged signatures on an application for cremation. I’d be interested to know what other funeral directors can read between the lines here.
The case is reported on the this is Devon website. Here’s what happened:
Mrs Lau, aged 30, fought back tears as she told the court how she learned last June that her unborn 26-week baby had died. Two days later she endured the heartbreak of giving birth to the stillborn boy, whom the couple named Sonny.
On July 2, while a post-mortem examination was carried out in Oxford, they attended the Plymouth Crownhill branch of Co-operative funeral services and met with Durden who, they told the court, answered their questions about what was available.
However, unable to decide at that stage, they left with lists of costs and visited a memorial company to find out about gravestones, plaques and memorials.
By July 9 they were told by the funeral home that Sonny’s remains were back from Oxford and they could proceed with funeral arrangements.
Over that weekend they agreed to cremation and contacted Durden on July 13, adding they wanted an envelope, containing Sonny’s birth certificate, an origami paper key and an origami paper star, to be placed in the casket.
However, Durden – who had worked at the firm for 10 years, but was manager for only 18 months – claimed he never received the call and no-one passed him any such message. He also denied saying the couple could dress their son in clothes of their choice.
On July 22, Mr Lau phoned Durden who told them their boy had been cremated the previous day at Bodmin crematorium. When the couple went to Bodmin the following day, staff showed them the forms authorising the cremation. When the couple saw the forged signatures, police were called. Durden denied any wrongdoing, claiming Mrs Lau was so distressed she forgot signing the two forms on the July 2 meeting. Durden – who was later sacked from his job – was fined £400, ordered to pay £15 victim surcharge and £350 court costs.
The link to this story was supplied to me by Mrs Lau who, in her email, adds: “This should be made aware nationwide and should never ever be allowed to happen again.”