A CLOSE friend of a woman who was buried in the wrong grave has launched legal proceedings to sue three of the organisations involved.
Grace Kamara, 77, was buried in the grave of Christopher Alder, 37, in 2000, a blunder that was only discovered in 2011 when her relatives asked 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, a former paratrooper 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.
A criminal inquiry into the affair is being conducted by South Yorkshire Police.
Now Christine Omoregie, Mrs Kamara’s friend who had asked to prepare her body on the day of her funeral in accordance with Nigerian tradition, has launched a claim for damages against Hull Council, which ran the city mortuary when the wrong body was released in November 2000; Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the mortuary where Mr Alder’s body was found; and EW Brown & Son, the Hull undertakers involved in both funerals.
Mrs Omoregie, who has lodged the claim at Central London County Court, said: “Hull City Council invited me and the family to go to East Hull Cemetery (for the funeral). They arranged it.
“Because of a visa problem the family couldn’t come and we’d been waiting for nine years.
“We were there by one o’clock. Then a council officer came to us and said: ‘We are looking for Mrs Kamara’s body’.
“Then they said the body was in Castle Hill Hospital (in Cottingham); we waited, but there was no body.
“We waited until 4pm and they said: ‘We are sorry, we can’t find the body, you should go home’.
“You can imagine the distress there and the distress they have caused. I’m claiming damages against these three people (organisations). I am claiming damages for wrongful burial and for the distress they have caused.”
A spokesman for the NHS trust said: “While this is still subject to a criminal inquiry we can’t comment.”
The council said in a statement: “We are awaiting the outcome of the investigation being conducted by South Yorkshire Police and we will respond to any actions brought against the council by Mrs Omoregie at the appropriate time.”
The funeral directors declined to comment.
Mrs Omoregie’s action follows a similar move by Mr Alder’s sister Janet last year.
The human rights campaign group Liberty, acting on Miss Alder’s behalf, lodged a protective claim with the same court last November.
Pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry, the claim allows her to pursue possible civil proceedings against the council and the NHS trust.
It is understood a civil case brought by Miss Alder may be based on potential breaches of Articles Three and Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article Three prohibits torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, while Article Eight covers the right to respect for private and family life.
Mr Alder died in the custody suite of Queens Gardens police station in Hull in the early hours of April 1, 1998. A coroner’s jury found he was unlawfully killed.