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Mortonhall ashes data stolen from charity office
From: Erica Absetz <eabsetz () opensecurityfoundation org>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2013 10:01:39 -0500
SENSITIVE documents linked to the babies’ ashes scandal at Mortonhall
Crematorium have been stolen in a raid on offices of the bereavement
charity which exposed the malpractice.
Thieves stole a laptop containing the personal details of families
affected by the controversy unearthed in December by Sands Lothian in
which the ashes of new and stillborn babies were cremated and later
buried without parents’ knowledge.
Vital e-mails circulated between key figures in the subsequent inquiry
were also on the computer.
The laptop, which is not thought to have been encrypted, was the only
item taken, alongside a box of keys.
Staff arrived at the charity HQ in Craiglockhart Leisure Centre, in
Colinton Road, yesterday morning to find papers strewn across a desk
and the notebook computer missing.
Dorothy Maitland, Sands Lothian operations manager, said the theft
could cost the charity in excess of £3,000 – but insisted she was most
anxious about the lost data.
“There was a TV, a collection can with money in it, a franking machine
and a bottle of wine they could have taken but they seem to have just
gone for the laptop and a key safe,” she said.
“It’s very worrying. I don’t know if they came in specifically for the
laptop but the whole thing doesn’t make sense and is very strange.”
Ms Maitland said records of some confidential parents’ complaints
against Mortonhall were contained in the laptop but the charity’s full
client database had been stored elsewhere.
She said: “It’s a body blow for us and apart from anything else it
makes you feel sick that someone has come in to our office,” she said.
“The laptop has a lot of information on it that I will need and is
“I’m concerned it’s been done by someone who has been after my laptop
but I’m just hoping and praying that it is opportunistic.
“With all the publicity about this scandal going on you just don’t know.”
There are fears losses from the raid may not be recouped through
insurance, as the intruders managed to access the premises without
“It has totally disabled the office when we should be helping bereaved
parents – it’s disgusting,” said Ms Maitland. “Everyone’s just
concerned and gutted because of the kind of organisation we are, you
just don’t expect something like this.”
Sands Lothian has previously
discussed moving into secure offices at
the leisure centre which will now take place on April 1.
The theft comes just weeks after the independent probe into cremation
practices was launched at Mortonhall and across the country. The
Scottish Government is also reviewing laws surrounding cremations,
some of which are 100 years old.
Campaigners believe the scandal of burying the cremated remains of
babies in a mass grave without parents being informed had been going
on for about 45 years. The practice ended in 2011.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that
police are investigating a theft from an office premises in Colinton
Road that happened over the weekend.
“Anyone with any information that can assist our enquiries should
contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131-311 3131, or alternatively
call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
LOW BLOW AT A CRUCIAL TIME
NEWS of the theft at Sands Lothian HQ could not come at a worse time
for the bereavement charity which has seen demand for its services
soar since the crematorium allegations broke.
But while the charity’s workload has rocketed, its resources have
fallen because staff and volunteers were too busy coping with the
scandal to do any fund-raising.
Last month, the News told how the Scottish Government had pledged
£30,000 funding to the charity to help in its work counselling and
befriending the affected families.
It is set to receive the one-off grant to help fund its £95,000-a-year
Sands Lothian has ten “befrienders” and two qualified counsellors.
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- Mortonhall ashes data stolen from charity office Erica Absetz (Feb 20)