Tomb for mumified parents a step closer

A SON’S bid to build a private mausoleum for his mummified parents who have lain in a city mortuary for the last 11 years has taken a major step forward following fresh talks with environment chiefs.

The bodies of Eugenios and Hilda Marcel are still being kept at Edinburgh City Mortuary in the Cowgate, after being found in the basement of a former fishmonger’s in Polwarth in 2002.

They cannot be laid to rest because the council has been unable to gain family consent to bury or cremate the couple, who died in 1987 and 1994.

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It is understood one of their two sons – a registered undertaker believed to have kept the bodies in the shop in Gilmore Place because he could not bear to let them go – hoped to convert his Capital home into a private mausoleum.

The complexity of the application is at the root of the protracted legal wrangle with the council, preventing the bodies from being interred. But the saga has been further complicated by the son moving away from the Capital around nine years ago, leaving only a PO box address for contact. Now it is understood both parties have reignited talks, which have progressed to a stage where the bodies could be released within months.

Mr Marcel died of prostate cancer in 1994 at 91, seven years after Hilda died from lung failure, aged 68.

It had been alleged that staff at a funeral home in Broxburn had been paid to preserve the bodies, and four members of staff were later sacked. Both deaths had been registered, however, and death certificates issued. After a police investigation, no charges were brought. Professor Roderick Paisley, left, a law lecturer from Aberdeen University, said the local authority had the power to bury or cremate the couple.

“The council has custody of these bodies so there is no issue of ownership,” he said. “They have a statutory duty to dispose of bodies that are unclaimed. If the son has come forward, the council could feel obliged to consult with him but they don’t have to abide by his decision. If he was the executor he should have dealt with this a decade ago. When he effectively abandoned these bodies he gave up his right to do that.”

A council spokesperson said: “Discussions are ongoing and we hope that a solution can be reached.”