Charles Cowling



Bristol undertaker Thomas Davis has been branded a “‘Burke and Hare’ operation” by MP Caroline Noakes after her constituent Peter Williams accused the undertakers of taking his mother-in-law’s body from Bristol Royal Infirmary and keeping it for ten days without asking.

She said: “Thomas Davis acted unlawfully, because all that had been requested by the Williams family was for them to provide a quote for their services and make provisional inquiries with a local crematorium. There was no contract, no formal quote and at no time were the family informed the body had been collected. Furthermore, at no time was any of the paperwork, required under Department of Health or hospital guidelines for the release of Mrs Pugh’s body, handed over by the family.”

A spokesperson for Thomas Davis claimed that the family had instructed the firm to carry out the funeral, and that the mortuary had released the body owing to “high standing and well-respected reputation” of the undertaker.

The NAFD sided with the undertaker: “The board believe that Thomas Davis acted in good faith, on the understanding that they had been given instructions from Mrs Williams to proceed with the funeral arrangements and have therefore agreed not to take the matter further.”

The hospital apologised to the family and blamed a member of the mortuary staff. (When big things happen, it’s the little guys who get it in the neck.) 

Full story in the Bristol Post here

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JonathanGeorgieDavid HolmesNick Gandonandrew plume Recent comment authors

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There are more than one versions of the facts here, and it appears a lot of unthinking assumptions were made on the grounds that ‘this is what always happens’, and I think Georgie has hit the nail on the head about that. The Easter break doesn’t last ten days, but no-one is giving any other reason why the fd failed to contact the family to arrange the funeral once they had the body. What posessed them to keep silent about a corpse in their mortuary? Why on earth didn’t they pick up the phone and say, ‘your mum-in-law is safely… Read more »


Thomas Andrews FDs may have acted in good faith but this is not necessarily the same thing as acting on the family’s instructions. I think that it’s important to be precise about what went wrong. If the family did instruct the FD to collect the body, why did they later complain about it? In regard to Nick’s comment above, why would any family instruct more than one Funeral Director to collect the body, that makes no sense at all. A more likely scenario is of more than one Funeral Director assuming that he or she has been instructed (perhaps because… Read more »

David Holmes

I agree, the process is often deeply flawed and we FD’s just want to collect the deceased with the minimum of fuss and frankly, time. Some families will give verbal instructions by telephone – often asking you to collect the family member ASAP. Some hospitals require too much paperwork, others still accept your word that a particular person can be taken into you care. Coroner’s officers are sometimes unavailable to provide release instructions or forms. Some mortuaries, even at large hospitals only open from 1 pm until 4 pm making collection ridiculously hard. At St Peter’s in Chertsey Surrey sometime… Read more »

Nick Gandon

Without directly referring to the above post, it has to be said that the whole process of collecting a body from hospitals and public morturies is becoming somewhat of a nightmare. Yes, there have to be safeguards and protocols in place to prevent the “incorrect” removal of someone’s nearest and dearest, but it’s about time that everyone in mortuary provision started singing from the same hymnsheet. Hospitals appear to be getting so afraid of litigation, that each location seems to have it’s own local “take” on exactly what paperwork is needed or accepted. The same appears to happening with Coroners’… Read more »

andrew plume
andrew plume

yes…..fwiw, in my previous (professional) capacity I instructed Thomas Davis on numerous occasions, some years ago. The business was then owned by the Davis family, prior to it’s current ownership by Alderwick’s. Based on those experiences, any question of ‘improper conduct’ is hard for me to believe, they are after all the largest independent in Bristol and why behave in such a suggested manner? andrew