Organs scandal hits more mums
Missing brains ... Ricky Hudson, left, died in 1997 aged 13 months, while Rhys Lovell, right, died after two days in 1998
TWO more mums told of their anguish last night after learning their tragic babies' brains had been secretly stored in a hospital for nearly 15 years.Mel Galton and Hannah Cheevers spoke out yesterday how Julie Middleton had been told her baby's brain was kept in a jar for 13 years since his death.
Horrified Julie, 40, accused Southampton General Hospital of "stealing" part of cot death victim Regan — although hospital chiefs say they were acting on behalf of the police and coroner's office.
Now Mel and Hannah have discovered that their babies' brains were also held at the SAME hospital for similar periods of time.
Both mums are demanding to know why the organs were kept instead of being buried with their babies' bodies.
Post mortems concluded that one baby was a victim of cot death, or sudden infant death syndrome, while the other died from a HEART problem.
Mel, 46, from Southampton, thought her one-year-old son Ricky was buried "complete" after his cot death in 1997.
She said: "I was told they had to do a post mortem but I was never told anything about them taking parts of his body.
"Now I find his brain was missing and it's like I've lost him all over again."
Like Julie, Mel was given the news by two police officers who knocked on her door.
She said: "They turned up just before Christmas and told me, 'We've found Ricky's brain at the hospital'. I was stunned, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
"I asked them 'Why have you kept it so long?' and all they could say was something like it had 'got lost in the system' and they were now chasing everything up.
"They gave me a letter and leaflet explaining the situation — but instead of 'son' the letter refers to him in one place as 'mother' and 'father' in another."
Mel said the news left her "really upset and stressed" and made it impossible for her to enjoy Christmas with her three other kids.
She now wants to bury Ricky's brain in his tiny grave in the New Forest — and is planning to sue over the scandal.
Mel said: "I'm disgusted and angry as well as upset. I'm not going to let this drop.
"They had a post mortem which found the cause of death as sudden infant death syndrome, so why did they need to keep his brain? I imagine it's been forgotten about on the back of a shelf somewhere.
"I want to have another funeral — it will probably be just me by his grave — because I want it returned to his body where it should be. I don't want it to go missing for another 15 years."
Hannah, 34, told how tiny son Rhys was just two days old when he died from a heart defect in 1998.
Thirteen years later police visited her and partner Martin Lovell, 39, at their home in Wimborne, Dorset.
Mum-of-five Hannah said: "They told us tissues from Rhys had been retained — I thought they meant a sliver of tissue on a slide. Then they said it was his whole brain. I was shocked. I was never told about this and if they'd asked my permission I would have said 'no'.
"They wouldn't tell me why it had been kept and they said that nothing had been done to it.
"It was dreadful — I had a new baby in my arms and it brought it all back."
Hannah added: "If they'd kept Rhys's heart I might have understood, but there was no reason to keep his brain.
"When he died they offered us a post mortem to find out what had happened and we agreed because we wanted to know.
"So he was taken from Poole Hospital to Southampton Hospital, but we had no idea they would keep his brain."
The scandal echoes events at Liverpool's Alder Hey Hospital, where organs from nearly 3,000 youngsters were "harvested" and kept without consent in the early 1990s.
Hannah added: "It's absolutely disgusting what has happened. I remember the Alder Hey scandal, and I said to my mum at the time that I was glad it wasn't Southampton. There really needs to be an inquiry into this."
Southampton General Hospital performs post mortems on bodies from all over the region, and said the coroner or forensic officers often asked for organs to be retained in case they were needed for further investigation. The hospital said it holds the specimens until the police or coroner give further instructions.
All the cases were uncovered as part of an audit launched by the Association of Chief Police Officers. Police forces nationwide have been ordered to draw up lists of all post mortem samples kept in storage.
ACPO said the aim of the exercise was to find the best way of dealing "sensitively" with tissues that are no longer needed by the justice system. Forensic samples often need to be kept for extended periods in criminal cases.
The audit comes after new laws introduced stricter controls and reviews for the storage of human tissue and organs.
Left in the dark
Kevin Luke, 15, died of organ failure in 1995
A MUM can no longer bear to visit her dead son's grave after discovering that Southampton General Hospital secretly kept his brain.
Maria Luke used to lay flowers every day at the cemetery where Kevin, 15, was buried.
But after contacting the hospital four years after his death, she was informed that his brain was removed in a post mortem — and later thrown away.
Maria, 58, "cried for days" and has not been to the grave in years.
She said: "It doesn't feel like it's really him there, it feels like a shell.
"His brain is him, it's his personality, his memories."
Kevin had Tuberous sclerosis — a rare genetic disease that causes non-malignant tumours on the brain and other organs.
He suffered heart and kidney failure in 1995 and was pronounced dead in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
In 1999, following the organs scandal at Alder Hey children's hospital, Maria's daughter Natasha wrote to Southampton General asking about her brother.
Maria, of Southampton, said: "The hospital looked into it and sent a letter saying they had kept my son's brain for six weeks — then it was disposed of. We were disgusted.
"We weren't even given an explanation as to why it happened. I can only assume they wanted to know more about his condition."
A hospital spokesman said they were looking into the case.
Give me truth
Ryan Franklin was killed by his dad in 2002, aged two
A BEREAVED mum said last night she hopes police will knock on HER door to solve the mystery of organs taken from her son at the same hospital — Southampton General.
Two-year-old Ryan Franklin was battered to death by his brutal dad in 2002. Lee Khair was jailed for manslaughter.
Mum Cathy buried her toddler thinking he was intact, but years later found out his BRAIN, EYES and SPINAL CORD had been removed.
She said: "When I heard about this review police are carrying out I hoped they would have got in touch with me. I would like someone to come forward and tell me what's happened to his organs so I can have closure."
Dinner lady Cathy, 36, knew that a post mortem had to be carried out on her son but said no to donating his organs.
She told doctors: "He came into this world full and I want him to go out full — don't touch him."
Five years after he was buried she began suspecting something wasn't right and decided to check. She discovered that some of Ryan's organs had been taken. His eyes went to a hospital in Sheffield for research — but no one knew what happened to the rest.
Cathy, of Blandford Forum, Dorset — who has another son, Benjamin, eight — said: "Every time I try to find out what happened I hit a brick wall. I hope now police are doing their audit I'll finally get the truth."