AN investigation into a body mix-up scandal in Hull is to be extended to Australia and New Zealand after it emerged that two potentially key witnesses have emigrated.
South Yorkshire Police launched a criminal inquiry last November after the body of former paratrooper Christopher Alder, 37, who died in police custody in 1998, was discovered in a hospital mortuary, 11 years after his family thought they had buried him.
The blunder was revealed when the family of a Nigerian woman, Grace Kamara, 77, arrived in Hull to collect her body for burial on November 4 and were told it could not be found.
Mr Alder’s grave in Hull’s Northern Cemetery was exhumed in February and tests confirmed that Mrs Kamara, who died of natural causes at her home in Hull in 1999, had been buried in his place.
Officers are now deciding whether to travel to Australasia to speak to the former mortuary staff, or whether to conduct the interviews by video link.
It can also be revealed that some witnesses, who will shortly be questioned for a second time, have been interviewed under caution on suspicion of misconduct in a public office.
The Yorkshire Post has also learned that EW Brown, the funeral directors who conducted Mr Alder’s supposed funeral in November 2000, were also in charge of Mrs Kamara’s last November.
However, Mr Alder’s sister Janet, who held a vigil outside the police station where her brother died on Sunday to mark the 14th anniversary of his death, said she did not believe the inquiry would establish exactly how the mix-up occurred as she has been told some records are missing, and the funeral director who organised Mr Alder’s supposed burial has since died.
She said: “It’s all a bit convenient that the funeral director has died and documents are missing, so I don’t think there’s much chance of getting to the truth.
“But I can’t believe that anybody could mix Christopher’s body up with an elderly woman, especially as his death had been so high profile. Didn’t they check it was him?
“And if they discovered it was Christopher instead of Grace in November, why couldn’t they do that in 2000?”
Miss Alder, 50, has provided a statement to police regarding the funeral in 2000, but said she did not want to submit herself to a formal interview.
She said: “It’s up to them to find the evidence. They should have the information and if it’s not there they ought to be asking where is it.
“I am not being part of it because it’s too traumatic. This is distressing to me, having to relive the ordeal. What I did was the same as anybody does when they want to prepare a funeral – you go to the people with the skills and the qualifications to do it.”