Anger as no-one held responsible for paratrooper bodies mix-up

Christopher Alder
Christopher Alder
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THE sister of former paratrooper Christopher Alder has expressed anger after it emerged no-one would face prosecution over a body mix-up scandal which saw him lie in a morgue for 11 years after he was supposed to have been buried.

Prosecutors examining the findings of a 17-month police investigation into the blunders which led to a Nigerian woman being buried in the wrong grave say they can’t determine “with any accuracy” how the bodies came to be exchanged, or who was involved.

Janet Alder said the only option she had left was to continue pursuing civil action for damages against two of the organisations involved in her quest for answers.

“I just think it is a total whitewash, a total insult to the family,” she said.

“I am shocked that an investigation went on for so long and so much public money was spent on it for them to travel to Australia and they can’t even establish accurately who was working in the mortuary at the time.

“How can you learn lessons when nobody knows who’s done what, where, when and how. If this was all error how many more people has it happened to?”

The mix-up was only discovered in 2011 when a friend of 77-year-old Grace Kamara came to dress her body before her funeral, which had been delayed for more than a decade because of problems gaining a visa for a relative – and were told it could not be found.

The body of Mr Alder, who died in police custody in 1998, was then discovered in a mortuary at Hull Royal Infirmary.

His grave in Hull’s Northern Cemetery was exhumed and tests confirmed Mrs Kamara had been buried in his place.

South Yorkshire Police, who carried out the subsequent police investigation, found 10 occasions in which staff could have realised they had got the bodies mixed up and identified three managers who “may have a case to answer”.

Yesterday, however, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution for either misconduct in a public office, or the prevention of the lawful burial of a body.

Senior crown prosecutor Richard Hebbert said: “On the evidence I have considered it has not been possible to determine with any accuracy when or how the bodies of Mr Alder and Mrs Kamara came to be exchanged, the personnel involved, or that what happened was anything more than an error.”

He said it was “clear” there were failures by mortuary staff to use identification procedures which might have prevented or led to earlier discovery of the error, but he was not satisfied that any failings on the part of those in charge met the high test required to establish criminal liability.

He said he knew it would be a disappointing outcome for the families involved and had offered a personal meeting to explain his decision.

Detective Superintendent Richard Fewkes, who led the investigation, said: “The investigation was detailed in the extreme and every available piece of evidence was presented to the Crown Prosecution Service, which has conducted a very thorough examination of the case.

“Whilst the investigation will not lead to a criminal prosecution, I am now in a position to explain to the families of Christopher Alder and Grace Kamara the likely circumstances that may have led to these very tragic events. It is also important that the relevant agencies involved are made aware of the full circumstances so that lessons can be learned and events of this kind prevented in future.”

Pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry, the human rights campaign group Liberty lodged a protective claim with Central London County Court on Miss Alder’s behalf. The claim, based on potential breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, allows her to pursue possible civil proceedings against Hull Council, which ran the city mortuary when the wrong body was released in November 2000, and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which took charge before Mrs Kamara’s abortive funeral last year.