Grandmother’s coffin in funeral scandal ‘spattered with blood and engulfed in mould’

Jessie Stockdale pictured seven years before her death. Humberside Police told her grandson that they believe her body is still at the funeral directors
Jessie Stockdale pictured before her death. Humberside Police told her grandson that they believed her body was still at the funeral directors

A victim of the Hull funeral home scandal has described how his grandmother’s coffin was spattered with blood and covered in thick black mould.

Tristan Essex had taken ashes home from Legacy Independent Funeral Directors in the city after being told they were those of Jessie Stockdale, for whom he had cared seven years before her death.

But when Humberside Police announced last month that it had recovered 35 bodies from the funeral parlour and some unidentified ashes, he called a helpline that had been set up for potential victims.

Officers informed him that they believed his grandmother’s body was still in the funeral home – meaning the ashes on his fireplace next to her handbag might be those of someone else.

“It felt like my heart had dropped into my stomach,” the 24-year-old told BBC Radio 4’s File on 4.

“We’d said it must be wrong, the ashes are there on the fireplace, they’re just sat right there. I’ve been talking to them as if it was my grandma and we don’t even know who’s in this ashes box.”

‘Unpleasant smell’

Mr Essex, from Hull, recalled how he had visited Legacy’s premises when his grandmother died and was taken aback by “such an unpleasant smell”, which he assumed was normal for a funeral parlour.

“When I saw the coffin my heart just stopped. He’d made no efforts at making her presentable – just seeing how her hair’s just wet, her face didn’t look the same, she looked so uncomfortable,” he told the programme.

“Her head just tilted forward, her fingers had gone black, the entire coffin was just engulfed in a black thick mould. Her coffin looked as if it had been submerged in water and it had actually soaked up the moisture.”

“Then on the frills of the coffin there was blood just splayed, clearly for everyone to see. She just looked poorly treated. I just left, I was speechless.”

Mr Essex said after being contacted by police, he offered the ashes back to them, but they told him to keep them until they had more information. DNA tests on the body are ongoing.

Started to decompose

Other victims of the scandal told the programme of their torment. One, a 35-year-old woman speaking under the pseudonym Louise, said she did not have a chance to say goodbye to her terminally ill mother because the funeral home told her that the body had already started to decompose.

A 46-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman remain on bail after being arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation and fraud by abuse of position.

The scandal is set to cost taxpayers up to £2 million, as Hull and East Riding councils have been given funding to cover issues such as second funerals. The authorities are due to consult soon on a possible group memorial.

Legacy Independent Funerals has been contacted for comment.