HOSPITAL bosses insist the tragic case of a premature baby being buried in an unmarked grave in Dewsbury could not happen again.
A probe was launched after parents Hannah and Nathan Cotterill discovered their daughter Lily Rose was not cremated as they wished.
She was born at 24 weeks in February 2011 at Dewsbury District Hospital following major complications.
She survived for just an hour, with the devastated Wakefield couple leaving it to hospital staff to organise the funeral.
They were told Lily Rose’s ashes would be spread at a memorial garden for premature babies following an emotional service.
Sales manager Hannah, 29, and warehouse worker Nathan, 27, only discovered by chance last month that had not happened.
They received a Kirklees Council letter asking them to tidy up an unmarked burial plot at Dewsbury Cemetery.
Hannah and Nathan contacted Kirklees, believing it to be a case of mistaken identity or a cruel joke.
But checks showed that Lily Rose had in fact been kept in storage at an unknown location until July 2011 and then buried in an unmarked public grave.
The couple complained to the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, leading to a probe by chief executive Stephen Eames.
He said: “It’s clear from my investigations that at the time our policy and procedures weren’t properly implemented.
“This is unacceptable. We unreservedly apologise to Hannah and Nathan for the fact that their expressed wishes were not followed.
“I’m assured that since February 2011 our whole system for managing such sad situations has been revised and improved.
“I am confident that this could not happen under our current policies and we believe this to be a tragic but isolated incident.”
The council letter, meanwhile, was headed “Public Baby Grave: Dewsbury Cemetery P67” and accompanied by a photograph of the unkempt plot.
Hannah blasted: “Our daughter is not P67 – she is Lily Rose, a much-wanted child and we grieve for her every day.”
Kirklees has since paid for a plaque on the plot giving Lily’s birth and death date with the words: “Held for a moment. Loved for a lifetime.”
Hannah added: “The thought of Lily being kept in a morgue for months is devastating. No family were there when she was buried.
“She has lain there all that time alone and forgotten, cast aside by those who went against our final wishes for our child. My heart is broken.”
Nathan said: “We’ve put a lily plant and pink roses around it, tidied it up and made it as pretty as possible. It’s what our daughter deserves.
“We’re horrified she was discarded with 15 other babies and human tissue. We’ll see if we can afford to exhume her and bury her privately.”
Solicitor Keith Etherington, of law firm Slater and Gordon, said: “They’ve been treated ≠appallingly by the hospital.
“And to find out about the burial of their daughter in an unkempt mass grave through a letter from the local authority is of the utmost cruelty.
“The dismay, distress and anxiety caused by the events will affect our clients and their family for years to come.”
A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “The baby was buried in a public grave which has 15 other interments.
“The grave became untidy and it was necessary to write to those with babies there asking them to tidy it.
“At this point the circumstances of Lily Rose came to light. We are pleased the family took up the offer of a plaque to mark the grave.”