Hudgell Solicitors has written to Staffordshire Police Force asking for an explanation as to how and why the ashes of a baby boy – which had been contained inside a teddy bear – were scattered across a bedroom during a search, leaving his parents devastated.
Chelsea Wright, 23, says she was left ‘hysterical’ and on her hands and knees trying to recover the precious remains of her baby boy Nathan after officers left the property.
Nathan died suddenly aged just 10 months, and Miss Wright, who was not suspected of committing any offence, has carried them in the ‘memory bear’ ever since.
However, when officers called at her boyfriend’s flat with a warrant relating to a stolen laptop, she says they left the ashes of her 10-month-old son scattered across the floor.
She has therefore turned to Hudgell Solicitors’ civil liberties specialists for support as she demands answers.
Mum had informed search officers that bear had son’s ashes inside
Miss Wright says she had informed officers from Staffordshire Police Force that the teddy, in a Spiderman baby grow, contained her son’s ashes before they conducted the search.
However, she says that when they left, she went into the bedroom where the bear had been left and was completely heart-broken by what she found.
“As soon as I walked into the room I could see white dust everywhere and I immediately knew it was Nathan,” she said.
“I was just in hysterics. I got onto my hands and knees and tried to salvage the ashes and brush them onto pieces of paper, but it was impossible. How on earth could they do this to a mum who has lost a baby boy?
“I’d even mentioned it to them before they started searching, but the Velcro on the teddy bear’s back had been opened and the bag had been cut open.
“How on earth could they have expected to find a laptop inside a small plastic bag which was inside a teddy bear? It is absolutely disgusting.”
Lawyer Andrew Petherbridge says police actions appear ‘impossible to justify’
Miss Wright says she called Staffordshire Police later in the day to make a complaint and was later called back by a sergeant, who she says was unwilling to log it as a formal complaint.
She said: “He said he wouldn’t take it on as a matter to investigate as ‘accidents happen’ and said he wanted to apologise for the ‘inconvenience’ caused.
“It was not an ‘inconvenience’, it was my 10-month-old baby boy who officers showed no care or compassion for. It is disgusting and I won’t let them brush this off as they have tried to do.”
Andrew Petherbridge, a lawyer who specialises in civil liberties actions against the police at Hudgell Solicitors, said he has written to the force on Miss Wright’s behalf asking them to explain their actions.
“Whatever reasons the police give for their actions in this case, it appears impossible to justify opening up the bag with Nathan’s remains inside and leaving his ashes scattered across the room,” he said.
“Even had they wished to take the teddy bear away for testing or any other reason, they had a duty of care to handle it in the appropriate manner, particularly given the fact Miss Wright had made an officer aware of the sensitive nature of the contents.
“Police forces have a duty to carry out their investigations in a responsible and proportionate manner, and on an initial assessment of what happened here, they look to have fallen way below the standards expected.
“We therefore expect a full explanation as to why the search was conducted in this manner when the property owner was accommodating.”
Memory bear made mum feel close to son who died suddenly
Miss Wright and her boyfriend James have lived with the trauma of suddenly losing Nathan in April 2014. Despite being born prematurely at 34 weeks, he was a ‘happy and healthy’ boy until his sudden death.
“It was absolutely heart-breaking when we lost him, and at the time it simply didn’t feel real. It was like something which happens to other people,” added Chelsea, of Rugeley, Staffordshire
“He had taken his very first steps that day and went to bed as normal. Suddenly he woke up and he was crying and James tried to calm him down by feeding him, but he wouldn’t settle and he just kept crying.
“Then, all of a sudden his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he turned blue. We dialled 999 and the paramedics tried to save him for around and hour and a half, but they couldn’t. It was absolutely devastating.”
Chelsea says she has carried the memory bear and Nathan’s ashes with her everywhere since to feel close to him, and to comfort her as she and James still have no clear answers as to why he suddenly died, with a full inquest still to be heard.
“Having the teddy bear with me and Nathan’s ashes has been important to me as it makes me feel close to him. I have taken that bear with me everywhere ever since. It even comes with me to the supermarket when I go shopping as it feels like Nathan is with me,” she added.
“I’d been staying with James at his flat when the police arrived to search his property at about 7.45am. We had nothing to hide so of course we let them in. James wasn’t even under any suspicion as it was all in relation to somebody else.
“To have this happen feels like I have lost Nathan again. It has taken me three years to come to terms with what happened to our family, but now I feel hurt again, like I did when we lost him.
“I can’t understand how the police can be so heartless and so inconsiderate. As soon as I went into the bedroom and saw the mess I knew it was Nathan’s ashes spread around the room.
“They obviously came in and just tore into things and threw things around. There were clothes which had just been left out of drawers also.”