Scotland’s capital has long been associated with the unlawful obtainment of bodies for medial research. Bodysnatchers Burke and Hare operated in Edinburgh, and their success was the result of unscrupulous doctors who did not question where their subjects came from.
Edinburgh was the hub of anatomical research in the early 19th century, but its dark underbelly may have had a more recent victim – a seven-day-old baby who died in 1975.
Lydia Reid, the child’s mother, always suspected that something sinister had happened to her son.
Now 69, Lydia said that when her son tragically died in 1975 at Edinburgh’s Sick Kids hospital, she asked to see his body a final time and was shown the body of a child who was not hers by Scotmid Co-operative Funeral staff.
“This baby was blond and big, my baby was tiny and dark-haired. This was not my son,” she said.
“I objected, but they said I was suffering from post-natal depression.”
Lydia’s suspicions only grew at her son’s funeral when she felt the weight of his casket. She said that it was far too light to have contained a baby. She knew that many hospitals illegally kept dead children’s bodies for research and believed that her son was a victim.
The grieving mother went on to spend 42 years campaigning to find out what happened to her son, who she named Gary, and now his body has finally been exhumed after she won a court order. Shockingly, his name was even misspelt on the plaque on his casket.
“I wanted to prove the fact that he wasn’t there. Until I could prove that he wasn’t there, I could not fight to find him,” Lydia said.
“I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to be called a stupid old woman, but the minute Sue [a leading leading forensic anthropologist] lifted the shawl out of the ground I knew there was nothing in it. My heart hit my feet, and I did not know what to say.”