With special thanks to Glen Perkins, Nick Southall, Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton. This eight-part article will be published each day this week. Read part three here. Some may find the content distressing.
Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton’s story was one of many that Action for Ashes founder, Glen Perkins, and BBC Radio Shropshire journalist, Nick Southall, began to learn of as they researched the missing baby ashes cases in Shrewsbury in greater depth. Along with speaking to affected parents, who slowly but surely began coming forwards in greater numbers, Perkins explains they also “sought information from industry professionals, from people from all walks of life, from death to the final point of cremation.”
As he continues, “We’ve been to witness cremations at South West Middlesex Crematorium, which is not something you really want to do when you’re filing a case for your daughter’s ashes, and that was horrific…” In fact, Perkins spent a whole day there in the bid to find the truth out about what had happened to Olivia. The crematorium manager, Teresa, also told Perkins that had he taken Olivia to be cremated at South West Middlesex, she would have given him his daughter’s remains to take home.
Indeed, as he explains, “at crematoriums such as South West Middlesex, there was a baby cremator. They usually use those for non-viable foetuses… this is foetuses from 24 weeks and younger. This cremator only allows coffins 11-inches wide in, so you can pretty much work out from that how small those cremators are. Olivia wouldn’t have fitted in one of those, which means that she could have been properly cremated in an adult cremator using a baby tray with proper practices and we would have got her remains… and this is without a doubt.”
This was supported in their research by photographic evidence in which the bone fragments could still be seen in the remains from a cremated 16-week-old gestational foetus. As Perkins tells me “I do and have seen photographs from a 28-and-a-half week old gestational baby and the bones are so evident and so clear after cremation. My daughter was 4-and-a-half months old… That’s a massive difference. Her bones were a lot stronger. When we saw that, we thought there’s something there. That’s something nasty.”
At this point of their investigation, the council statistics said that only one set of ashes in 40 were given back to parents after cremation, although Perkins was to discover that his daughter Olivia hadn’t even been included in these numbers. “We got the excuse that they overlooked them, but to me that is lame. When you’re dealing with something on this scale and this sensitivity, you do not overlook anything. That was ridiculous.” It raised their suspicions that there were even more parents affected than had been recognised.
With research and statistics in hand, Perkins and Southall decided to approach Shropshire council to challenge them about the situation. In the initial meeting, they asked the key questions of why, where, when, what – to which the council was unable to give answers. Instead, leader of the council, Keith Barrow, held his hands up and said: “We don’t know why it has happened to her. What do you want us to do?” Perkins and Southall presented their request for an independent enquiry, to which the council said they could have one.
“Even that raised some suspicion in my mind,” noted Perkins, “because if you don’t think there is anything wrong, you don’t admit to something so easily. By doing that, it is a good way of smoothing things out but I was speechless really. I thank God for him doing that because it has brought a lot to light since.”
Read part five 'The Report' -->
Words: Grace Carter