By Mollie Tracey
A devastated young mum was forced to pick up her dead son’s ashes from the floor after she claimed police ‘ripped open’ a teddy bear containing his remains.
Chelsea Wright, 23, and her partner James, lost their 10-month-old son on April 1 2014.
Despite being born prematurely at 34 weeks, Nathan was a ‘happy and healthy’ boy until his sudden death.
Wanting to keep her son close, Chelsea had Nathan’s ashes put into a teddy bear which she carried around with her every day.
But Chelsea was left ‘hysterical’ and on her hands and knees trying to recover the precious remains of her baby boy Nathan.
She claims police officers searched her property looking for a stolen laptop and tore open the bear.
Despite a search warrant, Chelsea was not suspected of committing any offence.
When officers left empty-handed, Chelsea went into the bedroom and was completely heart-broken by what she found.
The family have now opened a legal case against Staffordshire Police into the violation of their human rights with the help of Hudgell Solicitors.
Chelsea from, Rugeley, Staffordshire, said: “I can’t understand how the police can be so heartless and so inconsiderate, as soon as I went into the bedroom and saw the mess I knew it was Nathan’s ashes spread around the room.
“I was just in hysterics, I got onto my hands and knees and tried to salvage the ashes and brush them onto pieces of paper, but it was impossible.
“I’d even mentioned it to them before they started searching, but the Velcro on the teddy bear’s back had been opened and the bag had been cut open.
“I have no idea how they expected to find a laptop inside a small plastic bag which was inside a teddy bear, it is absolutely disgusting.
“To have this happen feels like I have lost Nathan all over again.
“It has taken me three years to come to terms with what happened to our family, but now I feel hurt again, like I did when we lost him.
“Nothing is ever going to bring Nathan back, and no amount of money is ever going to replace his ashes, I just hope that lessons are learnt and this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Since Nathan’s death, Chelsea has carried the memory bear with her everywhere in order to feel close to him.
The couple still have no clear answers surrounding Nathan’s sudden death and a full inquest is yet to be heard.
She added: “Having Nathan’s ashes with me every step of the way has been really important to us as a family.
“The bear even comes with me to the supermarket when I go shopping as I like to feel that Nathan is with me.
“It was heart-breaking losing Nathan and at the time it simply didn’t feel real.
“He had taken his very first steps that day and went to bed as normal.
“Suddenly he woke up and he was crying and James tried to calm him down by feeding him, but he wouldn’t settle and he just kept crying.
“Then, all of a sudden his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he turned blue.
“We dialled 999 and the paramedics tried to save him for around and hour and a half, but they couldn’t, it was absolutely devastating.”
Chelsea had warned the officers from Staffordshire Police Force that the teddy, in a Spiderman baby grow, contained her son’s ashes before they conducted the search for the stolen laptop.
Chelsea said: “I’d been staying with James at his flat when the police arrived to search his property at about 7.45am.
“We had nothing to hide so of course we let them in, James wasn’t even under any suspicion as it was all in relation to somebody else.
“As soon as I walked into the room I could see white dust everywhere and I immediately knew it was Nathan’s ashes.
“They obviously came in and just tore into things and threw things around, clothes had just been left on the floor out of the drawers.”
Chelsea says she called Staffordshire Police later in the day to make a complaint and was later called back by a sergeant who she says was unwilling to log it as a formal complaint.
She added: “He said he wouldn’t take it on as a matter to investigate as ‘accidents happen’ and said he wanted to apologise for the ‘inconvenience’ caused.
“It was not an ‘inconvenience’, it was my 10-month-old baby boy who officers showed no care or compassion for, and I won’t let them brush this off as they have tried to do.”
Andrew Petherbridge, a lawyer who specialises in civil liberties actions against the police at Hudgell Solicitors, said he has written to the force on Miss Wright’s behalf asking them to explain their actions.
Andrew said: “Whatever reasons the police give for their actions in this case, it appears impossible to justify opening up the bag with Nathan’s remains inside and leaving his ashes scattered across the room.
“Even had they wished to take the teddy bear away for testing or any other reason, they had a duty of care to handle it in the appropriate manner, particularly given the fact Miss Wright had made an officer aware of the sensitive nature of the contents.
“Police forces have a duty to carry out their investigations in a responsible and proportionate manner, and on an initial assessment of what happened here, they look to have fallen way below the standards expected.
“We therefore expect a full explanation as to why the search was conducted in this manner when the property owner was accommodating.”
A spokesperson from Staffordshire Police said: “We are treating this matter as a formal complaint and we have made a self-referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).”