Police to return ashes following storage concerns at Hull funeral parlour

Police have begun visiting more than 160 families in Hull to return ashes recovered from a funeral parlour in the city.

Investigators have been able to identify them through documentation and extensive enquiries.

However, some of the ashes will never be formally identified because cremation makes it impossible to extract DNA.

It emerged earlier in the year that officers had removed a number of bodies from three branches of Legacy Independent Funeral Directors - two in Hull and one in Beverley.

Humberside Police said it had received a "number of calls from concerned members of the public".

Concerns had been raised about "storage and management processes relating to care of the deceased".

Now, the force says it has "begun the process of visiting 163 families across the city in regards to the repatriation of ashes" recovered from the branch of the company located in Hessle Road in Hull.

It added: "Officers from the force along with support staff from Hull City Council and East Riding Council will provide those affected with a detailed update on what they've recovered and discuss the options available to them."

Richard Shaw, whose wife Rita died after a short illness last October, had unidentified ashes in an urn at his home for many months.

Mr Shaw, 70, used Legacy Independent Funeral Directors. After the firm was raided by police in March, he became concerned he might have been given the wrong ashes.

His worst fears were realised when police recently contacted him to say they had recovered what they believed to be his wife's ashes during their inquiries.

They have just been returned to him, eight months after her death.

He was given ashes in December while his wife was cremated in January, according to a letter found by police.

The unidentified ashes have been scattered around a rose tree he planted for Rita.

It still feels "raw", he told Sky News.

"It's heartbreaking," he said. "It comes over you in waves."

Mr Shaw, who volunteers at the hospice where his wife died, added: "I'm taking [it] that they're Rita's ashes, but it's just a case of if I didn't accept that I don't know how I'd cope with it all.

"I think I'm more positive that they're Rita's ashes but they've been cremated so they can't check on the DNA side of it."

The families are calling for a permanent memorial for their loved ones.

Monthly candlelit vigils have been taking place at the city's Pickering Park, providing those affected with support in uncertain times.

Some families say it would be the perfect location for a memorial garden.

Karen Dry, who used Legacy Independent Funeral Directors when her parents died, has organised the gatherings.

She told Sky News: "We need a permanent memorial - we need somewhere people can come and sit and reflect on their loved ones and families, somewhere that's peaceful so that we know that they're always resting."

She added: "We were all perfect strangers at the beginning and now we're very good friends. We've created our own community."

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A man, 46, and a woman, 23, were arrested on suspicion of prevention of a lawful and decent burial, fraud by false representation, and fraud by abuse of position.

They have been released on bail while inquiries continue.