'I literally screamed': Family given stranger's ashes after mother's death

By John Mercury May 15, 2024

A woman has told Sky News she “screamed” when she discovered the ashes she had been given from a funeral director months earlier were the remains of a stranger and not her mother.

Anne Gibson, 66, believed the urn of ashes was that of Patricia Alison, but months later she discovered her mum’s remains were still at the crematorium.

Ms Gibson told Sky News: “I literally screamed.”

She told the crematorium worker on the phone: “I said ‘that can’t be right because I’ve got my mum’s ashes here.’

“But he said ‘no, I’m sorry, they’re not your mum’s ashes. Your mother’s ashes are still here.'”

A Milne Independent Funeral Directors is currently being investigated by Police Scotland over the alleged mismanagement of cremated remains and funds.

The force has described the firm as a “former funeral company”.

Its branch in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, appears to have closed, but its Glasgow office was still registered as operating in March.

A. Milne Independent Funeral Directors in Glasgow
A Milne Independent Funeral Directors in Glasgow

Ms Alison, who was born and brought up in Glasgow, died at the age of 100 in April 2023.

She had taken out a funeral plan with A Milne in Dumbarton.

Ms Gibson said her mum’s ashes were not delivered to the family until September that year despite repeated requests.

They were eventually handed over the day before Ms Gibson moved to Manchester.

Ms Gibson said there was “always excuses” as to why it took so long.

It wasn’t until Ms Alison’s ashes were to be scattered on a family plot alongside her two late sons, daughter and husband in February this year that Ms Gibson noticed there was no name on them.

She said: “This sounds really strange but it’s perfectly true – I distinctly heard my mother shout at me that I was not to put those ashes on her boys’ grave because it wasn’t her.”

Patricia Alison. Pic: Family handout
Ms Alison ashes were scattered on a family plot. Pic: Family handout

Ms Gibson contacted West Dunbartonshire Council and was put in touch with Clydebank Crematorium.

It was then a “lovely man on the phone” said there was “no easy way” to tell her that he didn’t know whose ashes she had or where that person had been cremated.

Ms Gibson said: “But he did know it wasn’t my mum’s ashes I had – because my mum’s ashes were still there.”

The ashes were collected immediately and scattered on the family plot in Glasgow.

Ms Gibson said: “I wanted my mum where she would be safe, where no one else can ever hurt or harm her. She’s finally where she should be.”

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The other ashes were handed into the care of Police Scotland.

The force said its enquiries into the firm are at an “early stage”.

A spokesperson said: “An investigation is ongoing into the conduct of a former funeral company that had branches in Glasgow and Dumbarton with regard to the storage/return of cremated remains and allegations of financial misconduct.”

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) has confirmed the business is subject to a disciplinary process and a hearing is due to be held this month after the trade body received a “number of complaints”.

As a trade association, the NAFD has no statutory powers and regulates purely by consent, therefore expulsion from membership is the most severe penalty at its disposal.

A Milne Independent Funeral Directors was contacted for comment.


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