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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
Mother calls for disaster openness
Wreckage of the Marchioness is towed along the Thames
Fifty-one lost their lives in the Marchioness tragedy
A woman whose son died in the Marchioness disaster has called for greater openness and honesty from the authorities when dealing with survivors and relatives after major tragedies.

At a conference to discuss the aftermath of sudden catastrophes, Margaret Lockwood-Croft, of Aldershot, Hampshire, said survivors and victims' families were often "damaged" by poor communication with the emergency services.

Ms Lockwood-Croft's son Shaun was among the 51 people who died when the Marchioness pleasure boat collided with a dredger on the River Thames in 1989.


Marchioness victim Shaun Lockwood-Croft
Marchioness victim Shaun Lockwood-Croft
She said the police and coroner's handling of the disaster, including a decision not to let relatives of the dead identify bodies, had caused "immense damage" to bereaved families.

The two-day conference, attended by academics, emergency service representatives and those involved in planning for the aftermath of major disasters, is being held at Coventry University's Centre for Disaster Management.

It has been organised by Hillsborough survivor and sociologist Dr Anne Eyre in an attempt to improve the handling of tragedies.

Survivors and relatives from the Paddington train crash and the Lockerbie bombing are also attending.

Unanswered questions

Ms Lockwood-Croft told the conference that the psychological impact of details of the Marchioness disaster - such as the removal of victims' hands to help the identification procedure - was made worse because facts "leaked out" after the tragedy.

"All this could have been resolved from the beginning if those involved had been fully open and honest.

"The hands of our loved ones had been cut off, supposedly as part of the identification process. When I asked questions, the questions weren't being answered."

Ms Lockwood-Croft added that on the day of Shaun's funeral, she received a telephone call asking her to visit her local police station to collect his clothes, watch and ring.


Margaret Lockwood-Croft
Margaret Lockwood-Croft wants improved communication
She also criticised support services involved in the Marchioness disaster, claiming she only knew for certain that her son was dead when a policeman filling in a form asked her: "Which funeral directors are you using?"

She said: "These problems that occurred can be put down to one word - communication. There wasn't any communication and it soon became an issue of them and us."

But she added: "We need to look positively to go forward. We hope that our experiences change attitudes and procedures and laws and that politicians will listen to us."

Lessons

The authorities had told relatives of those who died in the IRA bombing of a barracks in Deal, Kent, "absolutely everything" and they coped with their grief much better, she said.

The conference organiser, Dr Eyre said: "After each disaster, lessons are learned and experience is shared.

"But more needs to be done if disaster planning, preparedness and response are to become more efficient, effective and humane in future."

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