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Dead Hackney woman locked in morgue for three weeks

PUBLISHED: 10:59 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:59 11 April 2013

A picture of the late Bridget O'Reilly.

A picture of the late Bridget O'Reilly.

Archant

A woman has been left lying dead in a hospital mortuary for three weeks - even though her friends of 40-plus years are ready and willing to lay her to rest.

Bridget O’Reilly died from lung cancer, aged 78, on Good Friday.

But her body has still not been released from Homerton Hospital even though there are friends desperate to give her a good send-off and money in her bank account to pay for the funeral.

Joanna Haran, who knew Mrs O’Reilly for years and who regarded her as her aunt, claims she has been unable to get a clear answer from Hackney social services as to why Mrs O’Reilly’s body cannot be released.

When asked by the Gazette, Hackney Council – which runs social services – would only say that Mrs O’Reilly had her own solicitor who needs to be consulted.

A spokeswoman said: “Social services are working closely with Bridget’s solicitor to ensure her wishes are met.”

But Miss Haran said Mrs O’Reilly would not have wanted to have been left in a morgue for three weeks – and that all she wanted was to have her ashes put in the ground.

Miss Haran, who lives off Stamford Hill, said: “All we want to do is what the woman asked us to.

“She told us that when she died, she wanted a cremation. She wanted to have a little headstone and have her ashes in an urn in the ground. We were going to put shamrocks on it so, at Christmas and Easter, we could put flowers on her grave.

“We don’t really know why she is being held. They keep saying things like, ‘She was vulnerable’. But the woman is dead so how can she be vulnerable?”

Mrs O’Reilly came to Britain from Ireland at the age of 16 and found work in a feather duster factory.

Before her death at the Mary Seacole nursing home in Nuttall Street, Hoxton, she lived in Lordship Road, Stoke Newington.

She is believed to have been divorced from her husband and estranged from her children but Miss Haran and her family regarded her as one of their own.

Miss Haran, who is not aware of a will having been made, said: “I have known her for 43 years as my aunt.

“I have always called her my aunt and my children have always called her auntie. She had my mum down as her next of kin.”

Miss Haran’s daughter Shannon added: “To have her sitting there in the cold and not being able to put her at rest is despicable.”

Miss Haran has even been quizzed by police over Mrs O’Reilly’s money, although Hackney Police have confirmed that there are no proceedings taking place.

Miss Haran added that if the body is released, she will use the £10,000 in Mrs O’Reilly’s bank account – for which she was a joint account-holder – to pay for the funeral and settle any bills, before leaving the remainder to any children who come forward.

Homerton Hospital would not comment on individual cases but chief nurse Charlie Sheldon said: “We always act in accordance with a patient’s wishes, their next of kin and our legal obligations.”

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