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Father wins right to cremate son after dispute with mother over final wishes

Mother to be offered half of her son's ashes

By Alan Erwin

A grieving father in dispute with his ex-wife over conflicting funeral plans for their dead son has won a legal battle to have him cremated.

Amid emotional scenes at the High Court in Belfast today, Samuel Auld was granted a declaration that Neil Auld's remains are to be released into his care.

The outcome was reached after the deceased's mother abandoned her claim to possession of the body for a burial ceremony.

Maureen Auld is to be offered half of her 36-year-old son's ashes following this weekend's cremation.

The dead man, who was from Belfast's Shankill area, died last Saturday of a suspected heart attack.

But his body could not be released by the coroner due to the row over the type of funeral.

Mr Auld issued judicial review proceedings in a bid to secure the remains, claiming his son wanted to be cremated after he died.

According to Mrs Auld, however, his wishes were to be buried.

With both parents having equal legal rights to the body, the coroner was unable to reach a decision.

A judge was set to hear evidence from the two sides today before ruling on the dispute.

But following out-of-court discussions Mrs Auld's barrister confirmed the withdrawal of her claim to the body.

Bobbie-Leigh Herdman told the judge her client did not want to put the whole family through a contested hearing - even though she still believes cremation was against her son's wishes.

A sister of the dead man sobbed in the public gallery as she too insisted it wasn't what he had wanted.

She shouted out: "We don't want ashes because he didn't want cremated."

Reaching a letter to her father as he sat with other relatives in front of her, she added "God forgive youse" before exiting the courtroom.

Mr Auld threw the paper to the floor following her outburst.

Under the arrangements confirmed by Mr Justice Deeny the coroner will release the body into the father's care.

His barrister, Laura McMahon, disclosed that a Saturday morning slot is available at Roselawn Crematorium on the outskirts of Belfast.

Mr Auld pledged to transfer the body to the funeral home on Friday so the mother and sister have an opportunity to pay their final respects.

"That should avoid occasions of conflict and yet allow them to express their understandable grief," the judge said.

A further undertaking involves Mr Auld keeping half of the ashes for his ex-wife and daughter.

Mr Justice Deeny added: "If they attend the ceremony no doubt they will be treated with respect."

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