Oddly Enough

"Cremated" father reunited with family

LONDON (Reuters) - A father mistakenly declared dead after going missing eight years ago has been reunited with his family after his son spotted him on television, police said on Thursday.

The family of John Delaney thought he had died when he disappeared in April 2000. They held a funeral and cremation after police found what they thought was his body three years later.

But Delaney, 71, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, had in fact been admitted to hospital in a confused state 10 days after he was reported missing.

Suffering from amnesia caused by a head injury, he couldn’t give police any clues about his name, address or family.

When further police checks failed to uncover his identity, he was given the new name David Harrison and handed over to social services. They put him in a care home where he stayed for the next eight years.

Meanwhile, a badly decomposed body found in the grounds of Manchester Royal Infirmary in 2003 was mistakenly identified as that of Delaney. His family was informed and they arranged a funeral and cremation later that year.

The truth of what happened to Delaney only emerged earlier this year when he appeared on a daytime television show about missing people.

His son John Renehan, 42, happened to be watching TV after working a night shift. He recognized his father and the pair were reunited after DNA tests confirmed they were related.

“I was in shock. We thought we had cremated my Dad. But I knew it was him,” Renehan told the Manchester Evening News.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said it had made mistakes and the family had been through a “traumatic” ordeal.

“At that time, only paper records of people reported missing from home existed,” it said.

“Today, Greater Manchester Police has advanced systems in place to ensure that mistakes of this nature are not made.

“Robust checks are made to establish the identity of people who cannot immediately confirm who they are.”

Police are trying to establish the identity of the man who was cremated in 2003. The officer who initially dealt with the case has since retired.

Editing by Steve Addison