It’s been 42 years since the funeral of Gary Paton. His mother, Lydia Reid, is still trying to find out what happened to his body.
Last month, the grieving mother watched as her baby son’s grave in Edinburgh was exhumed. When the coffin was opened, it was revealed to be empty. Reid had suspected as much, ever since the day of the funeral in 1975, when she felt the coffin was too light to have a baby inside.
Reid is now demanding that DNA testing be done on tissue samples taken from Gary’s body after his death, to prove that the samples really came from him. Now she’s wondering if her baby perhaps didn’t die, all those years ago.
“Is my son alive?” Reid said to The Washington Post. “I have to look at all possibilities.”
The mystery of baby Gary is tied in with a decades-long body parts scandal that has rocked the UK and even Australia. Thousands of parents who lost a baby or a child, anywhere from the 1950s to the 1990s, later discovered that their organs had been stolen by hospital staff before their burial.
But Gary’s story is more complicated than most.
Reid was 26 and a mother-of-two when she gave birth to Gary. She went into labour six weeks early and he was delivered by caesarean. He was put into a special care unit, and Reid would visit him, holding his fingers and speaking lovingly to him.
When Gary was six days old, he was transferred to another hospital. He underwent surgery to remove a catheter that a doctor had left in him. But Gary’s heart stopped three times on the operating table, and hospital staff told Reid that he had traumatic brain damage and would never recover. When they suggested taking him off life support, she agreed.
Oddly, Gary was later put back on life support. During the night, Reid was visited at home by police and told her son had died. She asked to see the body at the funeral home, so she could bury Gary in a shawl her mother had crocheted. The undertaker refused. Eventually, the body of a “blond and big” baby was brought out, looking nothing like Gary, who was small and dark-haired.