Funeral called off amid fears over cause of death

Ruth Van Doorn and Steven McLean.  Picture: Neil Hanna
Ruth Van Doorn and Steven McLean. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MOURNERS have been turned away from a woman’s funeral after relatives won a last-minute bid to postpone the ceremony amid concerns about the cause of death.

Elizabeth McLean, 85, died from a lung condition late last month, but her two children moved for an interim 24-hour delay to the service as they appealed for an urgent police investigation.

Elizabeth McLean

Elizabeth McLean

Mourners, unaware of the development, were turned away as they arrived at Warriston Cemetery yesterday.

Distressed siblings Steven McLean and Ruth Van Doorn have raised suspicions about their mother’s death and revealed their anguish after being informed on July 2 – four days after she passed away.

Today, they spoke of their “devastation” at being “ignored” by Ferrylee Nursing Home, North Junction Street, where their mother lived out her last days, but the council-run facility denied any wrongdoing and said Mrs McLean’s final wishes were followed “closely”.

Police confirmed they are now reviewing circumstances surrounding the death and it’s unclear when the service will now take place.

Mr McLean, who lives in Warriston, said his mother had been “alert” during a family visit days before she died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“If they had told me that she had died quite suddenly from heart failure I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, but with COPD they don’t just die like that.

“We want a full police investigation and a post-mortem to establish what happened.”

Mr McLean said he was still traumatised at not being able to pay his last respects to his late mother.

“If there were any signs she was on her last gasp we should have been told to come in and say our goodbyes,” he said. “We could maybe have given her a bit of comfort in her last hours but neither me nor my sister had that opportunity and you have to ask why.

We have been totally ignored and I don’t know how they can get away with that.”

Sister Ruth, 59, quizzed care home staff demanding to know why they hadn’t been informed.

She said: “They said the police had tried to contact Steven and had put a card through his door because he wasn’t in. I was shocked, which is a natural reaction. They arranged the funeral behind our back.”

A Police Scotland spokesman said they have been compelled to compile a report into the death by the procurator fiscal.

He said: “Police in Edinburgh responded to a care home in Leith on Friday, June 28 following the death of an 85-year-old woman.

“Officers who attended at the facility determined that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death and a death certificate was issued by the woman’s doctor.

“On the request of care home staff, police attended an address in Boat Green on June 28 to inform next of kin. However, the occupant was not within the property.

“Police Scotland is now reviewing the subsequent communication between officers and care home staff in ensuring next of kin had been informed.

“Following recent engagement with the woman’s family, we have been instructed by the procurator fiscal to submit a report into the circumstances surrounding her death.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Mrs McLean provided full instructions for the arrangements she would like to be made in the event of her death and these plans were 
followed closely by staff. “Unfortunately, her nominated next of kin – her son – did not provide a contact telephone number so could not be contacted by the care home. Police officers visited but were unable to locate him.”