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Funeral director guilty of forging signature on cremation document

Published by in English ·

A funeral director forged a grieving mother's signature and then failed to tell the still-born boy's parents he had been cremated until the next day.

David Durden, aged 61 of Dunraven Drive, Derriford, was found guilty by magistrates of submitting papers to Bodmin crematorium which did not have the signature of the child's mother or father.

The charge comes under the little known Cremation Act of 1902 which was originally introduced to stop doctors financially benefiting from co-signing specific statutory documents.

The grieving parents – Sandra and Sai Lau, from Eggbuckland – gave evidence during the trial, insisting no documents had ever been put before them during their meetings with Durden.

Mrs Lau, aged 30, fought back tears as she told the court how she learned last June that her unborn 26-week baby had died. Two days later she endured the heartbreak of giving birth to the stillborn boy, whom the couple named Sonny.

On July 2, while a post mortem was carried out in Oxford, they attended the Crownhill branch of Co-operative funeral services and met with Durden who, they told the court, answered their questions about what was available.

However, unable to decide at that stage they left with lists of costs and visited an Efford memorial company to find out about gravestones, plaques and memorials.

By July 9 they were told by the funeral home that Sonny's remains were back from Oxford and they could proceed with funeral arrangements.

Over that weekend they agreed to cremation and contacted Durden on July 13, adding they wanted an envelope, containing Sonny's birth certificate, an origami paper key and an origami paper star, to be placed in the casket.

However, Durden – who had worked at the firm for 10 years, but was manager for only 18 months – claimed he never received the call and no-one passed him any such message. He also denied saying the couple could dress their son in clothes of their choice.

On July 22 Mr Lau phoned Durden who told them their boy had been cremated the previous day at Bodmin crematorium. When the couple went to Bodmin the following day, staff showed them the forms authorising the cremation. When the couple saw the forged signatures police were called.

Durden repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming Mrs Lau was so distressed she forgot signing the two forms on the July 2 meeting. Durden – who was later sacked from his job – was fined £400, ordered to pay £15 victim surcharge and £350 court costs.

Mr and Mrs Lau hugged and sobbed as the guilty verdict was announced.

Outside court, Mrs Lau said: "We can put our son to rest now. I can't thank everyone enough who has helped us, especially Detective Buckley who stood by us. It's been a big cloud over our heads for nine months. We haven't been able to grieve properly."

Investigating officer Det Con John Buckley said it was "the most unusual case I've ever investigated.

"The couple's lives were put on hold and has been quite an emotional rollercoaster for them. Hopefully they will have closure now."




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