New trauma for baby death couple

By Jessica Elgot, October 27, 2011
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A couple have described their heartache after the Western Burial Society dashed their hopes of finding the grave of their baby daughter, despite telling them a few hours before that they had found where she was buried.

Thirty-three years ago, Marcia and Tony Leaman, from Edgware, north-west London, had a baby daughter who died after two days. As with dozens of families, discovered through a JC investigation, a rabbi from the Western Synagogue advised the Leamans that she would be buried "in the arms of a Jewish mother".

Many families have since discovered their babies buried alone in unmarked graves. Mrs Leaman said: "Unfortunately we were not so lucky as we are unable to find where our baby was buried. For over 30 years we took comfort in the fact that she was buried with a Jewish mother."

After the JC's revelations earlier this month, the Leamans called the Western Burial Society, under whose auspices their daughter was buried. They were assured that her grave had been found, and that she had been buried alone in her own coffin.

Mr Leaman said: "I was with a solicitor friend who told me to press them on the documents, and how the coffin had been paid for. They were worried about having a solicitor check the documents.

Then we got a phone call, telling us: 'Sorry, we can't find your daughter after all.' I don't understand why they would lie to me again. This was the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me, and it is dredging it up again. All I want is to do right by my wife and my daughter. It felt like we were being fobbed off."

Mrs Leaman added: "We desperately need to know what happened to her, but the officials say they are unable to help. I would appeal to any other families who have also been unable to find their babies, to get in touch with, and pressure the authorities, for a deep and thorough investigation."

Stephen Garcia of the Western Burial Society said they had found an incomplete entry for the Leamans' baby daughter, which did not specify the place she was buried.

Officials believed they had identified an unmarked grave, which would match the period when the Leamans' baby was buried, but later discovered it to be the grave of another baby.

Mr Garcia said: "We cannot comprehend why no grave indication was entered into the journal in 1978, as other comparable baby burials were recorded with this information supplied.

"This internment would have taken place under the auspices of the Western Synagogue, which no longer exists, and unfortunately there are no further records available to us.

"We deeply sympathise with the family over the distress that this must be causing them."

Last updated: 9:54am, October 27 2011