Two sisters left horrified when their late mother was not embalmed for three weeks have had an apology from the funeral directors. Sarah and Earla Sylvester, of Rommany Road, West Norwood were in grief when their mum Annette, a former nurse, died of bowel cancer at the age of 62, on December 11 last year.
But their trauma was worsened when they found out on January 3, three weeks later, that the embalming they were paying for had not been carried out.
A Yeatman & Sons Funeral Directors, of Norwood Road, West Norwood have since apologised to the Sylvesters for a delay in the embalming because the usual person was not available. The firm has also refunded £1,455 of the £7,211 cost of the funeral.
Sarah, an airline stewardess, said: “It was a horrible experience – the worst thing that could have happened. “When they asked if we wanted embalming, I said yes and they said they would do it straight away. But I don’t believe they did it until at least January 3.
We still don’t know when it took place, if at all. “I visited again on January 16, the day before the funeral, and her body was in a terrible state and smelt. I should not have seen that. I cannot get the images out of my head.
“My mum’s arms were wrapped in cling film with no consistent explanation given – one person said skin slip and the other said she had blisters from the day she arrived. But she had no blisters at home when she died.
“We could not have an open coffin as a result of all these issues. Yeatman’s said it would be best to keep her out of the church because of the smell, but I insisted and did not smell anything.
“A friend of mine who is a funeral director looked at the pictures of her and said there were several things about the body which he believed showed it had not been embalmed. I was livid. I went back, spoke to the manager, who apologised.
“But the original manager, who I dealt with in January, was not there any more.”
A Yeatman’s area manager James Groves wrote to Sarah to say: “As you know, my former colleague originally handled this matter and discussed things with you and it was my belief he had written to you. “I apologise if he had not done so and as you know, he has since left the organisation, hence my writing to you. “It was clear from his investigation that there were failures in our handling of the funeral arrangements. “Most critically, there was a delay in carrying out the embalming as a result of our usual embalmer not being available. Although alternative arrangements were made, there was a delay and this meant that, prior to embalming, the natural deterioration that occurs after death had progressed further than we would have wanted.
“I believe my colleague passed to you his sincere apologies for this error and I would like to repeat that apology on behalf of myself, my colleagues and the senior management of the organisation.
“The timescales after death are important in delaying deterioration of the deceased. Our failure as detailed above, plus a slightly extended time between the passing of your mother and us being asked to look after the arrangements, did contribute to the distressing circumstances you and I have discussed.
“Situations such as this are rare and of course very regrettable. It is our role to do what we can to prevent these situations and I apologise for any and all failings on our part on this occasion.”
A spokesman for A Yeatman & Sons Funeral Directors said: “We have apologised profusely to the daughter of the deceased, both in person and in writing, for our shortcomings in the handling of her mother’s funeral arrangements. “We have returned some of the family’s funeral fees in recognition of the distress caused.”