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Bodies tampered with -but "not by press"

A coroner has found that a hospital worker allowed a journalist access to a hospital chapel of rest, then uncovered the face of a body to allow photographs to be taken.

The investigation was launched after shocking pictures were published in Bedfordshire On Sunday in January as the paper secured an exclusive on the overflowing morgue at the busy hospital.

The picture showed bodies scattered around the floor and one woman recognised a deceased relative from the image.

The paper’s editor, Steve Lowe, and his chief photographer Ian Miles witnessed the scene after the editor made a trip on his own, with a Polaroid camera, to see the story for himself.

The picture caused public outcry and was followed up in many national papers, leading to the resignation of the hospital’s chief executive.

Bedford coroner David Morris, ordered an investigation when it was revealed the chapel at Bedford hospital was being used as a temporary mortuary.

The coroner was concerned at the lack of security illustrated by the ability of the paper to obtain the pictures and the possibility that at least one of the bodies may have been tampered with.

But after a three-month probe, he was unable to come up with concrete evidence to explain how some of the bodies pictured came to be uncovered.

People involved with the bodies said they were previously properly covered.

The investigation concluded that whoever allowed the journalist and the photographer access was “likely also to have tampered with the covering before the press entered”.

It said that three of the bodies had been “interfered with” but it was difficult to establish who was responsible as several staff were “not available to be interviewed”.

Bedfordshire On Sunday said this week: “Mr Miller accepted that BoS editor Steve Lowe and photographer Ian Miles did not interfere with the bodies in any way, but concluded there had been a significant breach in security, allowing them to enter the chapel of rest.

“Coverings on some of the bodies had been moved by someone who remains unidentified.”

Management issues raised by the incident have already been investigated in two previously published external reports.

To read our coverage of the original story, click here.

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