16 April 2024

Funeral directors face inspections amid Legacy probe

Every funeral parlour in Hull and East Yorkshire is to be inspected this week after a police investigation was launched into the practices of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors.

Hull City Council and East Riding Council have written to funeral directors across the region informing them of the inspections, which are backed by industry bodies.

Hull’s director of public health, Julia Weldon, said: “We know that bereaved families will have seen the recent reports and will be seeking reassurance at what is already a very difficult time. These visits are a chance for both local authorities to work with our local businesses to put those reassurances in place.”

Concerns were first raised on March 6 about Legacy’s storage and management processes in relation to the deceased.

Humberside Police attended and cordoned off all three of the company’s funeral parlours – two in Hull and one in Beverley.

A total of 35 bodies were recovered along with a quantity of ashes, and two people, a 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, were arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position. They have since been released on bail.

Mel Dawson, of Patrington funeral directors C Fewster and Son, said they had been inspected by the council on Monday.

She said: “We wanted to be available as soon as they said they could come, and we will be having another inspection by a trade body in the next couple of weeks. We want to reassure families as much as anyone. We are members of NAFD and SAIF (The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors) and conform to its code of practice, and we already undergo regular inspections.

“When the inspector came he said he had been absolutely inundated with calls. It hasn’t impacted us greatly as we are a local, trusted family business – but in Hull where there are more services and people are less loyal to one single funeral director, it will have caused great distress.

“I think that if one good thing can come out of this, it is regulation. It’s unbelievable that, as others have pointed out, it’s harder to open a café than set up a funeral parlour – you can literally wake up one morning and start one up, and there’s nothing to stop you.”

Garth Imison, managing director of Hull-based M Garton and Son, which has a branch in Hedon as well as in South Cave and Brough, said: “We are looking forward to the public health inspections which are being carried out this week by Hull and East Riding councils.

“Our hope with the public health inspections is that the public will be able to get some reassurance that the majority of funeral directors in the area are properly managed and equipped to provide a proper level of respect and care for the deceased.”

Charles Allott, of Hornsea-based CM Allott and Son, said: “East Riding Council and the National Association of Funeral Directors have inspected our premises on separate occasions and confirm that they found the services we provide to be to their satisfaction. We are unable to comment on the ongoing situation in Hull.”

Both councils, working with public and voluntary sector partners, have pledged support for those affected by the incident at Legacy Independent Funeral Directors.

The two local authorities have been working with Humberside Police since the ongoing investigation began. As detectives continue their work, alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA), the councils are leading and co-ordinating the work to understand the help people will need, and how to provide it.

Councillor Anne Handley, leader of East Riding Council, said: “My thoughts are with everyone affected by this unprecedented incident that has affected so many people. Our council, along with Hull City Council, is working to provide support to residents who may be affected in many different ways.

“One of the ways we will be helping is to make sure people know about, and have access to, a range of emotional support. We have begun working with our partners, such as GPs, who can help signpost people to the right support for them. Working with partners, we are collaboratively committed to supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of our communities, both in the short term and in the longer term.

“We are now working through how we deliver support and recovery going forward and we will be in a position to provide more information over the next week or so.”

Cllr Mike Ross, leader of Hull City Council, said: “Firstly, I want to express my deepest condolences to those families directly affected by the events that have taken place. We know there are many residents right across Hull who are deeply affected by this event. The initial stages of the investigation, and work to identify those directly affected is being led by our police colleagues, who continue to work tirelessly and with great care to support those families at this time. My thanks go to them for all they are doing.

“As the investigation continues, we recognise people will need ongoing support and we want them to know that both councils, and all the agencies involved, are working hard to ensure that this will be there for them.

“Over the past week teams from both Hull and East Riding councils have been working to anticipate the support needed and how we can ensure it is provided. We will be working directly with families who are very sadly involved in this incident to ensure their needs are met.

“We also understand that this reaches much wider. Our communities will have questions, concerns and ultimately will need help to recover and find a way to move forward with confidence in the services they provide for their loved ones as a last act of love and care.

“Like all of you, everyone at Hull City Council has been deeply shocked and saddened by these recent events, and this is an unprecedented incident. We want people in Hull to know that we are working hard to ensure you are supported, as are our partners, including the NHS, faith leaders, and community support services. We will provide further updates about how we will help, and how that help will be available.”

Meanwhile, a vigil will be held at Hull Minster for those affected by the investigation.

The vigil on Saturday, March 23, at 7pm, which will be led by the Bishop of Hull, Dr Eleanor Sanderson, will include the opportunity to light a candle for a loved one.

The Right Reverend Dr Sanderson said: “We are sacred to God in life and death. The church continues to be available and to work with Humberside Police and support agencies to ensure the dignity and honour of those who have died and those who love them are upheld.”

A phone line set up for those affected by the investigation had more than 1,500 calls in the space of a week. Anyone with concerns directly related to the case should call the helpline on 0800 051 4674 or, if calling from abroad, 0207 126 7619.

Alternatively, visit the Humberside Police Major Incident Portal (MIPP) at mipp.police.uk/operation/16HQ19P01-PO1.