Caution over death certificate proposal

Pearl Smith, of Wynyard Street, Dawdon, Seaham, with the posters concerning her son Shane, who went missing after kayaking off Seaham on April 22nd this year.

Pearl Smith, of Wynyard Street, Dawdon, Seaham, with the posters concerning her son Shane, who went missing after kayaking off Seaham on April 22nd this year.

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A MUM whose son disappeared at sea has expressed concerns over plans to make it easier for families to deal with affairs of missing people.

A report has called for the law to be changed so the loved ones of missing people can be issued with a certificate declaring the person “presumed dead”.

The Ministry of Justice is considering the recommendation, which could be based on a Scottish act that grants presumption of death after seven years.

As it stands in England and Wales, there is no time limit on how long financial affairs can remain in a person’s name when no death certificate is issued, which means life insurance policies that could be used to pay off mortgages cannot be used.

While some families of missing people have supported the proposal, including the sister of Manic Street Preachers Richey Edwards, who went missing 17 years ago, Pearl Smith, from Seaham, has concerns.

Her 30-year-old son Shane went missing off Seaham Beach in April 2010 as he kayaked, and despite searches, his body has never been found.

The 54-year-old grandmother said she would not seek out such a certificate as she still hopes his body will be discovered, believing he is trapped on rocks beneath the sea.

She said: “I would gladly wait 30 more years for the death certificate because that finalises it.

“Shane didn’t have any money whatsoever. I called up the place where he had a loan and they’d heard about Shane and they quashed the loan.

“It’s a fine line.

“There have been people that have gone missing and come back.

“If the Government can bring out a law whereby if there’s money coming out the bank, but nothing coming in, and they can stop that, then that’s a good idea.”

Pearl also says cases such as John and Anne Darwin, who faked his death to cash in insurance policies, have damaged faith in the processes families and companies have to go through when someone goes missing.

She added she would be willing to help other families whose loved one has gone missing.

She said: “It destroys families.

“It’s because we’re such a close-knit family, that’s what saved us.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham