Mortuary mix-up: Three organisations to be sued for £100k by friend of Grace Kamara
THREE organisations are being sued for £100,000 over a mortuary mix-up in Hull.
Christopher Alder's body was discovered in the Hull Royal Infirmary mortuary in November 2011, 11 years after his family believed they had laid him to rest following his death in police custody in 1998.
An exhumation of his grave in Hull's Northern Cemetery earlier this year confirmed Grace Kamara, 77, had been buried in his place.
Now, Mrs Kamara's close friend Christine Omoregie has launched legal proceedings against Hull City Council, Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and funeral directors EW Brown.
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She submitted the claim to the Central London Civil Justice Centre last week as it had to be submitted within a year of discovering the mistake.
That was confirmed on February 22, last year when Mr Alder's grave was exhumed and Mrs Kamara's body was discovered inside.
Mrs Omoregie said: "I have put in the claim for £100,000 but we accept it is up to the court's discretion.
"The amount may seem high but I want it to reflect the seriousness of the situation.
"I'm not in this for the money but for justice.
"I am questioning whether any of the organisations involved took reasonable steps to avoid this mistake.
"I want to know what procedures are in place and whether they were followed.
"This has caused Grace's family and friends a lot of stress."
The mix-up only came to light after Mrs Kamara's relatives insisted on seeing the body – an important tradition in Nigerian heritage – leading to the council admitting the terrible mistake.
Mrs Omoregie said: "We waited at the cemetery for four hours. We would have never known the terrible mistake if it wasn't for our cultural heritage.
"As well as the council's conduct, we want to know what the undertaker's role was when collecting the body and the NHS trust, which runs the mortuary."
Mrs Omoregie also wants questions answered over the failure to grant relatives of Mrs Kamara a visa to come over and bury her.
She said: "I would like to see the Home Office clarify the situation regarding granting visas on compassionate grounds.
"I spent about £3,000 trying to get relatives over and waited a decade for a visa to be granted."
A criminal investigation was launched shortly after the mortuary mix-up, which is still ongoing.
A spokesman for Hull City Council said: "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."
Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is also waiting until the criminal investigation is completed.
A spokesman said: "While this continues to be a criminal investigation, we cannot comment."
EW Brown declined to comment.
The move by Mrs Omoregie follows a protective claim with Central London County Court, lodged by human rights campaign group Liberty in November on behalf of Mr Alder's sister Janet.
The claim allows Ms Alder to pursue possible civil proceedings against Hull Council and Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Mr Alder, a father of two, died face down in custody at Queens Gardens police station on April 1, 1998, with his hands cuffed behind his back. A post-mortem failed to establish the cause of death.
After an inquest returned a verdict of unlawful killing, five police officers stood trial for manslaughter, along with misconduct charges.
However, the case collapsed and the officers were cleared.