Grieving daughter launches funeral director campaign after heartache over mother’s body

Tina Kent with a photograph of her late mother Pauline.
Tina Kent with a photograph of her late mother Pauline.
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A DISTRAUGHT daughter is calling on funeral directors to be licensed after an undertaker wrongly claimed her mum’s body was infected.

Sunderland’s senior coroner criticised undertaker Tony Clarke for telling the family of Pauline Kent they could not pay their respects because she had a “highly contagious” infection.

Daughter Tina has now launched an online petition to change the unregulated industry.

The 35-year-old, from Sunderland, said: “My aim is to get all the funeral directors licensed and regulated and with up to date qualifications.

“No funeral parlour should be up and running unless it is 100 per cent ready, not 98 per cent.”

Mum-of-two Mrs Kent, 58, died at Sunderland Royal Hospital on January 2 after a two-year battle with cancer.

An inquest heard Mr Clarke told the family they could not pay their respects on January 11, which would have been Mrs Kent’s birthday, because of the alleged infection, and her coffin needed to stay closed.

It is believed detectives attended the hearing at Sunderland Coroner’s Court and have since spoken to the Kent family.

Senior coroner, Derek Winter, said that 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.”

Miss Kent, from Downhill, was left on her hands and knees, sobbing, after Mr Clarke claimed her mum’s body was in an “horrendous” condition.

Speaking to the Echo yesterday, she said: “If the industry had been licensed, my mam would have been looked after.

“At the end of the day, people who look after old people in a care home and hairdressers have to be trained and licensed.

“Why should it be very different for funeral directors?”

So far, more than 100 people have signed the online petition, which can be found at

Tina added: “I’m doing it for my mam. At the time you are going through something like that, you feel so alone.

“Funeral directors agree with what I am saying. If they have nothing to hide, they would not be bothered.”

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, pictured above, has also taken up Tina’s case.

She said: “I was as surprised as Tina was that apparently anyone can set themselves up as a funeral director.

“Grieving relatives deserve to have confidence in the services they receive at what is an incredibly difficult time, and I’m working with Tina to raise this with the Government to see how best we can ensure this is the case.”

John Finn, whose wife Carol runs a firm of funeral directors, said: “The industry is unregulated as far as licensing. But funeral directors can join organisations like the National Association of Funeral Directors and SAIF (National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors), and there are courses available.

“I think it would be good if there was licensing because it would stop something like this happening again.”

Northumbria Police confirmed their investigations into claims of fraud and theft carried out by a 50-year-old man are still ongoing.