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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 07:17 GMT
Memorial for Marchioness victims
The ship is salvaged from the Thames
The Marchioness sinking claimed 51 lives
A memorial service organised by the families of the victims of the 1989 Marchioness disaster will be held on Monday.

Fifty-one people died when the pleasure boat sank after colliding with the dredger Bowbelle on the River Thames.

The service will be held in the chapel at Westminster Central Hall, London, ahead of a public meeting to review guidelines for identifying victims of major tragedies.

The coroner who oversaw the team dealing with the Marchioness victims, Dr Paul Knapman, has come in for strong criticism for allowing the hands of 25 of the dead to be cut off for fingerprint identification.

Hands 'lost for years'

In evidence to the disaster inquiry earlier this month, Dr Knapman apologised for the distress caused to the victims' families.

He admitted that the procedure should only have been carried out as a last resort when other methods of identification had been exhausted.

The coroners are working under some of the oldest legal rules in this country

Iain Philpott
It emerged that one family had unknowingly buried their daughter without her hands, which were only found four years later.

Relatives of those who died on the Marchioness are calling for reform of the rules governing coroners.

They will debate a series of recommendations in a paper drawn up by the inquiry and incorporating suggestions made after the Paddington rail crash.

The paper sets out suggestions including the creation of a team of specially trained coroners who could be drafted in when a major disaster happens.

Margaret Lockwood-Croft, who lost her son Shaun in the Marchioness tragedy, says coroners' procedures should also be made more transparent.

Margaret Lockwood-Croft who lost her son Shaun in the disaster
Margaret Lockwood-Croft wants more openness
"It's about giving empowerment to the bereaved and survivors by giving information," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"In the Marchioness disaster and others in the 1980s information wasn't given, you had to try to seek it but obviously we didn't know what questions we should be asking of whom."

Iain Philpott, a survivor of the tragedy and a member of the Marchioness Action Group, called for a government white paper to modernise regulations over coroners.

He said: "The coroners are working under some of the oldest legal rules in this country and are really an autonomous body who are not particularly answerable as far as we can see to anybody."

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