No charge in freezer body case

A GRIEVING Edinburgh pensioner who kept his wife's body in a freezer for 11 days after she died has escaped criminal charges.

Desmond Irvine, 74, was beside himself with grief when his wife Veronica, also 74, died of natural causes at their home in Tollcross.

He put her body in a wheelchair and took her by taxi to their holiday home in Berwick with the help of his son, Philip Irvine, 36.

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Police today confirmed that the pair will not face prosecution over their actions following Mrs Irvine's death on Valentine's Day.

The body was released from the city mortuary last week after the procurator fiscal gave permission for relatives to remove it.

It had been in cold storage for more than three weeks while officials awaited for arrangements to be made by the family.

A family funeral was held at a cemetery in Inveresk village near Musselburgh last Wednesday where she was finally buried five weeks after her death.

Police had insisted that Philip and Desmond, of Valleyfield Street, were potentially committing a crime by storing the corpse in a freezer.

Among the possible offences were failing to register the death and not committing the body for burial or cremation.

Today, the Crown Office said that they would only proceed with charges after receiving a criminal report from police.

But a police spokesman said that no further action would be taken now the disposal of the body had taken place.

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Relatives first contacted officers when they became concerned no funeral arrangements had been announced. The police recovered her corpse on February 26.

The Irvines, who have two grown-up sons and a daughter, married in Edinburgh in 1956.

Daughter Margaret Bussell, 44, lives with husband Allan in Inveresk village. She refused to comment today.

Philip Irvine had accused the police of "legalised bodysnatching" after his mother's body was removed from the freezer where it had been kept for 11 days.

He said they were respecting her last wishes and the police had acted insensitively.

It was reported that Desmond and Philip staged a "last supper" for Mrs Irvine on February 15 where they placed her at a table.

Desmond informed a doctor that she had passed away before, helped by Philip, he dressed her in her favourite frock, put her body in a wheelchair, and took her down to a taxi which drove them 60 miles south to Berwick.

She was kept in a chest freezer, similar to the kind used to store frozen food in a supermarket, in the family's run-down holiday home in the town where the pair stayed to grieve.

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A Crown Office spokesman said: "We received a report about the sudden death but not a criminal report. That is a matter for the police."

A police spokeswoman said: "The police have submitted a report of the circumstances to the procurator fiscal. Given that the body was recovered and appropriate arrangements were made for the disposal then that was the end of the police involvement."

Neighbours had described retired electrician Desmond Irvine as an eccentric loner, known as the "nutty professor".

One said he was fiercely protective of his wife and would not let family look after her.

He was hunted by police in April 1999 after taking his wife from hospital following a stroke. Mrs Irvine was understood to have had high blood pressure and was thought to have suffered a second stroke shortly before her death.