MP calls for inquiry after mum forced to endure three funerals for her baby daughter

A mum who lives in the Wigan borough has had to endure three funerals for her baby daughter after police kept discovering body parts they had not returned, MPs heard.

Wednesday, 12th September 2018, 2:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th September 2018, 3:27 pm
Leah Aldridge died after being shaken

MP for Bolton West and Atherton, Christopher Green, said that relatives of Leah Aldridge have "no confidence" that Greater Manchester Police have allowed them to finally lay her to rest.

Prime Minister Theresa May faced calls to launch an inquiry before telling MPs it was an "absolutely terrible case" and the family have suffered a "prolonged trauma" as a result of how it has been handled.

Five-week-old Leah, of Blake Avenue in Atherton, died after being shaken to death by her dad, Andrew Ashurst - of Formby Avenue.

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Ashurst served 18 months of a three-year sentence for shaking his daughter to death

The infant was suffering from a cold and was not sleeping when she was killed by Ashurst at the family home as he tried to settle her.

He was later jailed for three years but served just 18 months of his sentence.

Leah sustained massive brain damage and died in hospital on Christmas Day in 2002.

Fifteen years later, in January 2017, her mum Janine Aldridge was informed by GMP that her daughter’s liver had been found as a result of an audit of human tissue held by the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that took place in 2010.

Ms Aldridge arranged another burial for Leah in March 2017 after having more of Leah’s organs returned. She was told by authorities at this point that all organs were accounted for but Ms Aldridge continued to enquire to ensure this was the case and reached out to her local MP for additional support.

Following enquiries made by Mr Green since March 2017, Ms Aldridge has been informed that other organs from her daughter had been retained. She held another burial for her daughter in August 2018. Ms Aldridge has no confidence that her case is closed and that all of her daughter’s organs have been accounted for.

The Bolton West MP has pushed for answers in PMQs this week, asking the Prime Minister to hold an inquiry into the Greater Manchester authorities’ mishandling of not only her case, but others like it. It is suspected that over 180 families in Greater Manchester have been affected.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Green (Bolton West) said: "Leah Aldridge was killed by her father in 2002 and after the coroner and Greater Manchester Police finished their investigation, the body was returned to the family for her funeral.

"Last year the police discovered they had retained some of Leah's body parts and these were returned to the family for a second funeral.

"Only a few weeks ago yet more body parts were discovered by the police and the family had to go through the ordeal of a third funeral.

“The death of a child is always a horrific experience for any parent, however the failures in the Greater Manchester authorities’ handling of Miss Aldridge’s case has only amplified the horror she has had to endure.

MPs could be heard reacting in disbelief at the situation, with Mr Green adding: "They have no confidence in Greater Manchester Police or the police and crime commissioner, the mayor of Greater Manchester (Andy Burnham), that they now have finally allowed the family to lay their daughter Leah to rest.

"Would the Prime Minister hold an inquiry into this matter for the sake of Leah's family and for other families across Greater Manchester?"

Mrs May replied: "I think this is an absolutely terrible case that he has set out.

"I'm sure he'll have felt from the reaction from MPs across the House when they heard him setting out the details that we all want to express our deepest sympathy to Leah's family for what is a prolonged trauma they have had to endure as a result of the way this has been handled.

"I understand the deputy mayor of Greater Manchester has been in touch with the Human Tissue Authority about the case and the Human Tissue Authority is advising on ensuring the establishment concerned take the necessary work to evaluate what went wrong in this case, put in measures to minimise the chance this can ever happen again.

"Officials in the Home Office are going to be meeting both with Greater Manchester Police and the National Police Chiefs Council to further address this issue of historically held human tissue and I'll ensure the relevant Home Office minister updates (Mr Green) on the outcomes of those meetings."