Scottish mother campaigned for decades to discover the fate of dead baby

Baby coffin
The the tiny coffin was buried without any human remains at all. Photo credit: File

A mother who sought DNA testing on her deceased baby son found the coffin was, in fact, empty.

Scottish woman Lynda Reid campaigned for 40 years to find out what happened to her dead baby, and described the news that her son's coffin was buried with no body inside as "devastating".

"My heart hit my feet. It is devastating to know that all years I have been coming here to honour my son he's not been here," she told The Sun.

After years of campaigning for resolution, she was just last week granted a court order for an exhumation at her sons' burial plot.

But inside, no remains of baby Gary were found, and a report undertaken by forensic anthropologist, Professor Dame Sue Black, found the tiny coffin was buried without human remains at all.

Ms Reid had enlisted her services in the hopes of carrying out DNA testing on the human remains to see whom he had belonged to.

The 68-year-old's son was seven days old when he died at Edinburgh's Royal Hospital in 1975, and she told the BBC when she had asked to see her son she was shown a child that wasn't hers.

"I objected but they said I was suffering from post-natal depression. This baby was blonde and big; my baby was tiny and dark-haired. This was not my son."

The fate of her baby has now been linked to a practice of the era where hospitals illegally kept dead children's body parts for research.

Scottish National Health Service bosses admitted the practice was widespread after an investigation into organ retention in Liverpool was launched.

About 6000 organs and tissues were retained by Scottish hospitals between 1970 and 2000, many from children.

Ms Reid, a leading voice in the campaign to expose the practice, long believed her baby's organs were taken without permission, but she had no proof. Ms Reid said she had wanted to be proved wrong.

"Until I could prove that he wasn't there I could not fight to find him. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be called a stupid old woman.

"But the minute Sue lifted the shawl out of the ground I knew there was nothing in it."

Professor Black said while the items inside were preserved "incredibly well", there were no human remains. There was no hair, and no bones.

"There is no other answer because you never get that level of presentation of coffin and not have a body be preserved."

Ms Reid said someone must know what happened to her child.

"Even if he's been incinerated I want to know. Even if he's lying in a jar in a hospital somewhere I want to know. If it's possible to get my son back I want my son back."

Even if these options weren't possible she at least wanted to be told so she could find peace, she said.

From her involvement in the organ scandal campaign she knew there would be other cases like hers.

Professor Black said there would have to be an investigation, as she had never come across anything like it before.

Police are now looking into the case.