A FAMILY has told how the grief of losing a loved one was exacerbated by being told his body had ‘gone missing’ for over a week.

Thomas Clark, 58, of Stanley, who died after suffering from a combination of throat cancer, COPD and pneumonia, was found dead at his Wear Road home in late January by his 28-year-old son, Steven.

An officer from Durham Constabulary mistakenly advised the funeral director to take his body to the University Hospital of North Durham, but, on arrival, they were redirected to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

When relatives tried to make arrangements to see his body and plan his funeral, they were told the Freeman did not have any record of him being there.

Steven Clark, from Stanley, said: “I was ringing up all week but they said they did not have any paper work.

“I kept ringing and I got told by the funeral director they had forgotten about him. I kept ringing them and they kept fobbing me off, saying they would ring back.

The Northern Echo:

Thomas Clark, pictured with his grandchildren, Summer and Steven

“He had died on the Monday and it got to the following Tuesday or Wednesday when they said they found him. It was over a week.”

The late Mr Clark’s sister, Joyce, 48, from Annfield Plain, said the delay meant she was fearful of visiting her brother in the Chapel of Rest.

She said: “We had no time to grieve and the longer they had the body it was starting to deteriorate. 

“When I eventually went to see him I was frightened to see him. It did not look like my brother. I don’t want people going through what we have been through.”

A spokesman for County Durham Coroner Jeremy Chipperfield said an investigation had been carried out.

The spokesman said: “It is clear, at no point, after his removal into the care of Coroner Services, and until his release, after his autopsy, was the whereabouts of Thomas Clark’s body unknown to the Coroner Service, it’s partner’s or its agents.

“By error, of one of our partner organisations, he was first taken to the University Hospital of North Durham.

“On arrival there, the error was noted and he was immediately taken to the Freeman Hospital.”

The spokesman said it was common during coronial investigation for bodies to be removed from mortuaries to determine the cause of death, and this must be done in premises licensed for the purpose.

A Durham Constabulary spokesperson said: “Until recently, all deceased persons were taken to University Hospital North Durham.

“A recent change means that some, including those in the Stanley area, are now taken to the Freeman. Shortly after the change, the body of a man was taken to UHND in error. This was swiftly noticed and the body taken on to the Freeman.

“This was an unfortunate mistake from which lessons have been learned.”

It is understood confusion as to the whereabouts of Mr Clark’s body may have arisen due to bureaucratic complications.

A spokesman for the Freeman Hospital said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mr Clark’s family at this very difficult time.

“As a trust we offer a post mortem service throughout the North-East but are reliant on the Coroner to provide all the necessary paperwork before we can proceed with any examination.”