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Two parents with conflicting funeral plans for dead son in legal fight to gain possession of his body

By Alan Erwin

Published 26/08/2015

Neil Auld died last Saturday of a suspected heart attack
Neil Auld died last Saturday of a suspected heart attack

Two grieving parents with conflicting funeral plans for their dead son are locked in a legal fight to gain possession of his body.

A High Court judge has been asked to rule on whether Belfast man Neil Auld's remains should be released to his father for cremation or go to his mother for a burial.

Mr Auld, who was in his mid thirties and from the Shankill area of the city, died last Saturday of a suspected heart attack.

However, his body is yet to be released by the coroner due to the ongoing dispute over the type of funeral.

Samuel Auld, the dead man's father, has launched judicial review proceedings in a bid to secure the body.

He claims his son wanted to be cremated following his death.

But Mr Auld's ex-wife Maureen insisted that the funeral service should culminate in her son being buried.

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

Instead, Mr Justice Deeny was urged today to make an order on who should take possession of the remains.

Both sides of the family were in court as opposing arguments were set out.

Counsel for Samuel Auld acknowledged the central issue was which parent had properly understood their son's wishes. 

Laura McMahon said: "The difficult is that Neil has already been dead for four days and his body is lying in the morgue."

The court heard Mrs Auld claims she may not be treated with respect if the funeral arrangements were left to her ex-husband.

Accorging to Ms McMahon, however, other family members would give her time to spend alone with her son's body.

Half the ashes could be given to her to scatter at any grave site she then wants to arrange, it was contended.

Bobbie-Leigh Herdman, for Mrs Auld, said she was adamant that her son should be buried from her home.

The barrister claimed a compromise could have been reached where both parents made separate visits to see the body at a funeral parlour.

Following submissions Mr Justice Deeny decided he needed more evidence from the parents.

Adjourning the case to tomorrow (Thursday), he urged both sides to try to settle their differences.

The judge said: "This is a most unusual and sensitive matter, and if the parties can continue to try and reflect on a way to resolve the dispute that would be most sensible."

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