Believed dead and cremated- but alive on TV

Wonder how long before the case of John Delaney is used for a compulsory ID scheme, or DNA bank on all people in the UK. That someone could go missing, police mistakenly find a dead body they identify as the missing person, then he turns up years later on TV – alive but with total amnesia under the name “David Harrison”.

If his son had not been watching the TV appeal at the time, he may still be under the delusion that he had cremated his Dad five years ago.

So the question remains – who is the dead person and why the cock up?

From BBC News.

Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 14:02 UK

‘Cremated’ father turns up on TV

A man has been reunited with his father after spotting him on television – five years after he thought he was cremated.

John Renehan’s father John Delaney went missing in 2000 and when a decomposed body matching his description was found in 2003 he was identified by a coroner.

But it has emerged that Mr Delaney, 71, of Oldham, had actually been put in a care home after being found wandering around the town with memory loss.

Police admitted “mistakes were made” in the identification process.

When Mr Delaney was found in 2000 in a confused state in Copsterhill Road he was unable to give any clues about his identity.

He was given the name “David Harrison” and placed in the care home where he stayed for eight years.

Positive identification

His family reported him as missing but appeals failed to uncover information about his whereabouts.

The body of a man, which had similar clothes and historic wounds to Mr Delaney, was found in the grounds of Manchester Royal Infirmary in January 2003.

It was identified as Mr Delaney and a funeral was held.

More than five years after the cremation service, Mr Renehan, from Didsbury, saw a television appeal about finding the family of the man in the care home, who he recognised as his father.

Asked how he felt when he saw him on the BBC Missing Live programme, Mr Renehan said: “I knew straight away that was my dad.”

The 42-year-old rang the programme after the episode in April.

He added: “I think they thought I was some nutcase. That’s when I told them I thought I buried my father in 2003.”

I’ve been bringing pictures in, trying to bring his memory back and things are starting to click
John Renehan

Mr Renehan then contacted the police, who asked him a series of questions before DNA tests confirmed their relationship.

“I must admit I’m not happy about the whole scenario. Somebody has got to take responsibility for their actions.”

Mr Renehan said his father is suffering from total amnesia, but he is now spending time with him to try and rebuild their relationship.

“I’ve been bringing pictures in, trying to bring his memory back and things are starting to click.

“But also the thing that keeps popping up into my mind is this other person who I cremated. We’re still waiting for answers really.”

Investigation under way

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said the identification mix-up was a matter for the coroner, who is no longer in the post.

But the force said there was no suspicious circumstances surrounding the discovery and that DNA testing was not routinely used at that time.

A spokesperson said: “Greater Manchester Police accepts that mistakes were made and that Mr Delaney’s family has been through a traumatic ordeal.”

It said that inquiries in 2003 to establish the unknown man’s identity were “not sufficient”.

“At that time, only paper records of people reported missing from home existed,” the spokesperson added.

“Today, Greater Manchester Police has advanced systems in place to ensure that mistakes of this nature are not made and robust checks are made to establish the identity of people who cannot immediately confirm who they are.”

The spokesperson said the officer who dealt with the case in 2000 had since retired from the force.

An investigation is under way to try to establish the identity of the man cremated in 2003.


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