Terminally ill mum has baby’s remains returned to her after 48 years

Lydia Reid at the cemetery in Edinburgh where it was found her baby son’s coffin didn’t contain his remains (Picture: Gary Stanway)

A terminally ill mum has finally had her baby boy’s remains returned to her 48 years after his death.

Lydia Reid’s son Gary died in 1975 when he was just a week old.

She believed she had buried his body but became suspicious after later learning his organs had been removed for research purposes.

Lydia, who lives in Edinburgh, had his coffin exhumed five years ago and it was found there were no human remains inside it, a BBC report has revealed.

The Crown Office has now allowed the organs and other body parts that were stored in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to be handed over to Gary’s mother.

However, it said an investigation had found no evidence of criminality or unlawful organ retention in this case.

Lydia, who has bowel cancer, said she was ‘elated’ that she could finally lay her son to rest and give him a respectful funeral before she dies.

Remains from the grave were exhumed in 2017 and transferred to a new coffin (Credits: BBC)

She told BBC Scotland: ‘The hurt has been horrendous. Now I can bury him before I die, I feel great relief.’

Lydia has been a leading figure in a campaign to expose how hospitals in Scotland retained dead children’s body parts for research.

Around 6,000 organs and tissues were kept by Scottish hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many from children.

NHS Scotland were forced to admit the practice after a public inquiry into organ retention at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool in 1999.

Lydia said that when she asked to see her son’s body a few days after his death she was shown a different baby.

She later learnt her son’s organs had been removed and stored at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. She said pieces would be shaved off for microscope tests without her permission.

It was in September 2017 that a court order was granted to exhume Gary’s coffin from where it was buried at Saughton Cemetery in Edinburgh.

The plaque at Gary’s grave where it was found his remains were missing (Picture: BBC)

A shawl, a hat, a cross and a name tag, plus the disintegrated coffin were found buried, but no human remains, Lydia explained.

A forensic anthropologist concluded that the coffin had never contained any human remains.

In 2022 Lydia went on hunger strike and camped outside Edinburgh’s Crown Office demanding to know what happened to her son and to have his remains returned.

She said they refused to cooperate and gave ‘silly reasons’ but she continued to fight, until finally it was agreed Gary’s remains would be returned.

Gary was born with Rhesus disease, a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman’s blood destroy her baby’s blood cells.

Lydia had two other sons, and one, Steven, was born with the same condition but was given a blood transfusion and lived.

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But, she said, doctors carried out an ‘experimental procedure’ on Gary that left him brain damaged.

She sadly lost one son, Bruce, to cancer in 2006, but hopes Steven will carry on her campaign after she dies.

Lydia is currently staying at a hospital but plans to check herself out for a day to attend Gary’s funeral.

Lindsey Miller, deputy crown agent at the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), told the BBC that an extensive and thorough multi-agency investigation had been carried out into the case.

She said there was no ‘criminality or evidence of unlawful organ retention identified’.

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