Husband of Houghton man left furious after Australian death certificate row over their marriage disappointed in Government response

Marco Bulmer-Rizzi with late husband David.
Marco Bulmer-Rizzi with late husband David.
Have your say

The distraught husband of a Wearside man who died while on honeymoon in Australia says the British Government should have done more to help him have their same-sex marriage recognised by authorities down under.

After David Bulmer-Rizzi, 32, died following a fall down a flight of stairs while staying with friends in Adelaide earlier this month, grieving husband Marco, 38, was left stunned when told his death certificate would say ‘never married’ because the South Australian state didn’t recognise their union.

It’s disgraceful I have not been acknowledged.

Marco Bulmer-Rizzi

After an international furore, SA Premier Jay Weatherill phoned Marco to personally apologise and pledge to change the laws, meaning a new death certificate stating their correct marital status could be issued at a later date.

Marco, who has been supported in Australia by David’s father Nigel Bulmer, contacted Prime Minister David Cameron, the Foreign Office and his MP Bridget Phillipson among others to raise his plight after the sudden death of David, originally from Houghton.

The Foreign Office and Ms Phillipson have since said they have made contact with Marco, as he and Nigel, 61, prepare to return to the UK with David’s ashes in the coming days.

But businessman Marco, who lived with David in Elba Park, has spoken of his frustration at the slow response he got from UK authorities when he sought their help.

He said: “From the UK Government, I did not heard a word.

“It’s disgraceful I was not acknowledged.

“It’s like they were hiding behind silence.

“Even if David had died in Uganda, where being gay is punishable by the death penalty, I would have been able to get in touch with the British Embassy there and they would issued me with a UK death certificate.

“Australia is the only country to exclude us from that.

“It’s shocking that the UK Government wasn’t prepared to assist couples abroad, the people who now recognise our marriage. It just felt like we were completely alone.

He added he had found the call from Mr Weatherill “humbling” and said he had been stunned with the support he’s been given by friends, family and total strangers.

“It’s flattering, amazing and it feels like we’ve done a feat which is so much bigger than us, because I wouldn’t want anybody to go through this,” he said.

“But the most amazing thing is that I’ve seen people sharing my story and it’s because it’s never come up before.

“If we can help other people, then I will be grateful.

“What David would think is the only reason I’m doing this.

“I thought about it and David was all for charity and good work, and he would have gone crazy about this.

“This will be David’s legacy.”

After his husband’s death, Marco honoured his wish to become an organ donor and David has now provided the gift of life to three others as a result

Marco added: “I feel that in moments of the worst despair, I can think how two kids are now able to play with their dad, and that really helps to keep me sane.”

A service for close friends and family of David, who grew up in Houghton and went to Park View School in Chester-le-Street, will be held next month.

His mum Jane, 58, has previously paid tribute to her son and said he would be “cheering on” Marco in his efforts.

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has said she has taken up his complaint with the Government.

She told the Echo: “My thoughts are with Marco following the sad loss of his husband David.

“To lose a loved one in such tragic circumstances is difficult enough, without the further distress this situation has caused.

“I have raised the case as a matter of urgency with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Ministers must do all they can to make sure that no-one else suffers this same experience in future.”

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “We have the greatest sympathy for Mr Bulmer-Rizzi and our staff in Australia and the UK have been working hard to offer support and find a practical solution.

“In this exceptional case, we have now put in place a process to issue a death registration quickly once an application is received.”