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Family left in shock by Ombudsman revelation

Dead son’s body part was retained

By Ciara Quinn

A WEST Belfast father has spoken of his “total devastation” after the Police Ombudsman’s Office informed his family that they still have a part of the body of his son who died ten years ago. As part of a recent Police Ombudsman internal audit, it was discovered that in a number of cases the next of kin of deceased persons had not been informed that body parts and samples had been taken and retained between 2001 and 2006.

In recent weeks the PSNI have also been informing families after it emerged that they too had held on to body parts of some murder victims and those who had died violently dating back to the 60s.

18-year-old Sean Irvine from Rossnareen in the upper Andersonstown area was struck by an unmarked police car on the Antrim Road on September 14, 2002.

His father Myles told the Andersonstown News that the news that the Police Ombudsman has held on to a body part of Sean has “devastated” the family.

“It is almost ten years since we lost Sean and we got a letter from the Police Ombudsman on May 18 informing us that they had a body part belonging to my son and we all just went into tears, we can’t believe that this is happening to us,” said Myles.

“I just don’t understand, I can’t get my head around the fact that someone must have known this yet his family only find out ten years later. I just feel disgusted at this, you don’t expect news like this to come to your door. It’s like something out of a horror film – it’s not real life,” he said.

Myles said the hardest part dealing with the “bombshell” was picking up the phone to ask exactly which part of Sean’s body had been retained.

“No-one wants to make that call – ever. The woman on the other end of the phone told me that they had the upper muscle part of Sean’s back. ‘You must know who gave permission to do this to Sean,’ I said. ‘Surely we should’ve been told.’ These are the questions that she couldn’t answer.

“I tried, but I couldn’t find the words to tell my wife Angela. We have been in our own world this last lot of years, trying to take every day as it comes. This wasn’t something me or my family needed and I hope no-one is ever in this position to feel the pain we are going through.”


Myles described his son as an “absolute gentleman, the nicest you could ever meet –  he loved being around the family”.

He added: “The next step for us is to contact the funeral directors as we want to raise Sean’s grave and have his body part buried with him.

“Our family have never got over our grief for Sean. I remember when he died we got his clothes back, but no one told us they had anything of his.

“We just don’t know where our heads are at the minute, if any mother and father found out that there is a part of their child out there that hasn’t been buried with them – what does that do them? Mentally what does that do them? We haven’t been able to sleep a wink since this came out. Devastation is only just beginning for my family, I just don’t know how this is going to affect our lives.”

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman’s Office told us: “The Police Ombudsman’s Office established during an audit of our cases earlier this month that we retained samples from the bodies of four people who died during incidents between 2001 and 2006. These incidents were each subject to investigation by this office. We have since contacted the families involved, including the family of the late Sean Irvine, to advise them of this information. We offer our sincere apologies to Mr Irvine and the wider family circle that they were not provided with this information at a much earlier stage. We are now working to provide whatever assistance we can to the families during this traumatic and distressing time.”

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