Family given stranger's ashes after mother's death

A grieving daughter has told of her upset after discovering the ashes she collected from a Scottish funeral director were the remains of a stranger.

Anne Gibson had an urn in her house for five months - believing it was her mother Patricia Alison - before being told her ashes were still at the crematorium.

A Milne Funeral Directors is being investigated by Police Scotland over allegations of financial mismanagement and issues with the return of ashes.

The company's Dumbarton branch closed in 2023, while the Springburn branch was still registered as operating in March.

Ms Gibson's mother died aged 100 in April 2023. She had a funeral plan with A Milne in Dumbarton.

Her ashes were not handed to the family until September that year.

Ms Gibson, who now lives in Manchester, said: "After the funeral we kept asking about collecting the ashes but there was always an excuse.

"Towards the end of September I said to them, we needed the ashes because I was moving away."

The ashes were delivered a few days later.

However, the day before they intended to scatter the ashes in February this year Ms Gibson noticed there was no name on them.

She contacted West Dunbartonshire Council and was put in touch with Clydebank crematorium.

She said: "The man on the phone said to me that he had never seen this happen before and he didn’t know how to make what he was going to tell me any easier.

"He said he didn’t know who the ashes I had belonged to, or where that person had been cremated, because my mum's ashes were sitting in front of him.

"We were sitting with those ashes in this house for five months believing they belonged to our mum.

"The whole time her ashes were at the crematorium, ignored, as if no one loved or cared about her. My mum didn’t deserve that."

Ms Gibson said she was told the crematorium bill had still not been paid, depite her mother's funeral plan.

Dennis Smillie, from Dumbarton, also took out a funeral plan with A Milne before his death in November 2021.

His daughter-in-law Samantha Wotherspoon said that after the funeral they struggled to collect the ashes due to personal circumstances, but were told the funeral directors would deliver them instead.

Three years after his death, the family are still waiting to receive them.

She said: "We were in Dumbarton High Street and we noticed the funeral directors had changed name, it wasn’t A Milne any more."

After contacting A Milne they were told the funeral had not been paid for.

They provided proof that they had paid the bill but received no response.

Ms Wotherspoon said: "The one thing we do know is the ashes were picked up from Cardross Crematorium, where they were signed for by A Milne Funeral Directors, we just don’t know where they went after.

She added: "It is hard to describe, I know how hurt my partner and his family are.

"When a family member dies you either have the ashes or a grave to visit, to give you some closure, we don’t have that.

"We just want him to be back where he needs to be, back with his family."

Police Scotland said its investigation was at an early stage.

A spokesperson said: “An investigation is ongoing into to the conduct of a former funeral company that had branches in Glasgow and Dumbarton with regard to the storage/return of cremated remains and allegations of financial misconduct."

A Facebook group for family members unhappy with the company currently has more than 200 members.

The National Association of Funeral Directors confirmed they have also received a "number of complaints" relating to A Milne, which will be considered at a disciplinary hearing this month.

A Milne Funeral Directors have been approached for comment.