A FUNERAL director who wrongly told a daughter her mum’s body was infected is at the centre of a police probe.
Tony Clarke was criticised in an inquest last month after a coroner heard the family of Pauline Kent could not pay their respects because of a “highly contagious” infection and her coffin needed to stay closed.
Senior Coroner, Derek Winter, said the 50-year-old undertaker had undermined the integrity of the death certificate and the mortuary procedures.
He added: “I find the actions of Mr Clarke were ill-informed and unnecessary. All he had to do was speak to the hospital.”
Mum-of-two Mrs Kent, 58, died at Sunderland Royal Hospital on January 2 after a two-year battle with cancer.
The family had hoped to pay their respects at Mr Clarke’s parlour on January 11, which would have been her birthday.
But he rang daughter Tina Kent the day before to say they couldn’t go because her body was in such a “horrendous” condition.
Miss Kent claimed his chapel of rest was a derelict flower shop, which was still under construction when he was arranging her mum’s funeral.
He denied the claim, however it is believed detectives attended the inquest at Sunderland Coroner’s Court and have since spoken to the Kent family.
Northumbria Police has now confirmed they have launched investigation into claims of fraud and theft.
A spokeswoman said: “Police have received a number of reports relating to possible theft or fraud offences by a 50-year-old man.
“Inquiries are ongoing to see if any offences have been committed.”
The body of Mrs Kent, from Rutherglen Road, Red House, Sunderland, was released to Tony Clarke with a form saying she was not suffering from any infections.
Mr Clarke said an abbreviation on the form led him to believe Mrs Kent was infectious.
But he admitted he did not call the mortuary to clarify its meaning, instead consulting an embalmer and a solicitor.
Speaking after the hearing, Miss Kent, 35, from Downhill, Sunderland, said she had not been able to grieve properly and is now campaigning for funeral directors to be licensed.