A mother was forced to hold three funerals for her baby daughter after police failed to return all of the infant’s organs following a post-morten, an MP has told the Commons.
Five-week-old Leah Aldridge died on Christmas Day 2002 after suffering massive brain damage when her father, Andrew Ashurst, shook her when she wouldn’t stop crying. He was later jailed for manslaughter.
Bolton West MP Chris Green told the House of Commons on Wednesday that almost 15 years after her baby’s first burial, Janine Aldridge was informed by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) that some of Leah’s organs had been retained following her post-mortem.
The revelation came after a 2010 audit of human tissue held by police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A second funeral was held for the baby girl in March 2017.
“Only a few weeks ago even more body parts were discovered by the police and the family had to go through the ordeal of a third funeral,” Tory MP Green said during PMQs, sparking gasps from the benches.
“The Aldridge family no longer have any confidence in the Greater Manchester Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner nor the Mayor of Greater Manchester.”
Calling for a public inquiry into the case, Green added: “The death of a child is always a horrific experience for any parent, however the failures in the Greater Manchester authorities’ handling of Miss Aldridge’s case has only amplified the horror she has had to endure.”
Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident an “absolutely terrible case”.
“I’m sure as he will have felt from the reaction from members across the house when they heard him setting out the details, that we all want to express our deepest sympathy to Leah’s family for what is a prolonged trauma that they have had to endure as a result of the way that this has been handled,” she told the Commons.
According to May, the Human Tissue Authority is overseeing measures to make sure the incident is not repeated, while Home Office officials are set to meet with GMP and the National Police Chief’s Council to address the issue of historically-held human tissue.
In a statement, GMP’s detective chief superintendent Mary Doyle said that officers had begun visiting families in September 2018 regarding 180 body samples still held by the force.
“Each family was told about the sample held that was taken from their loved one and how they were taken for investigative reasons,” she said.
“They have been given a range of options for sensitive disposal of the samples, all of which GMP will pay for. This work was carried out by a specialist GMP Human Tissue Act team and their progress in this challenging area has been recognised as an example of national best practice.
“This is a deeply sensitive and private matter for the families affected and the decision to contact them was not taken lightly, in fact it was a decision that we agonised over with a number of independent advisory groups, partner agencies and other professionals.
“We will of course cooperate with any inquiry as we believe it’s important the process is as open and transparent as possible.”
A spokesperson from Andy Burnham’s office said the case is being treated with “upmost seriousness” and that the Mayor of Greater Manchester has written to the Aldridge family to offer his full support.