Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 12:38 UK

Funeral held for stolen remains

Flooded quarry near Winchburgh
The bodies of William and John Higgins were found in a flooded quarry near Winchburgh in 1913

A funeral has been held for two boys whose remains were stolen for research in Edinburgh almost 100 years ago.

A mass for William and John Higgins, whose father drowned them in a quarry near Winchburgh, was held in Edinburgh University's Catholic chaplaincy.

When the bodies were found, two scientists took some body parts for research without telling the family.

Sir Sidney Smith and Harvey Littlejohn removed limbs and organs before sealing up the remains in coffins for burial.

Parts of the boys' bodies were held by Edinburgh University until Wednesday's service.

The boys were murdered in 1911 but it was not until their bodies were found 18 months later in 1913 that some of the body parts were taken by the scientists during the post-mortem examinations.

The scientists took the parts because they were such good examples of how cold water can preserve the body therefore providing "valuable insights" for the students of forensic medicine.

Calton Jail governor's house
All that is left of Calton Jail is the governor's house

Professor David Harrison, Edinburgh University's head of pathology, said: "These events took place almost 100 years ago and clearly there has been a major change in medical ethics since then.

"We hope the ceremony accords the dignity and respect due to the two young boys and are pleased that this case has been drawn to a rightful close."

Maureen Marella, who is the boys' cousin, and lives in Las Vegas, wanted the mass to be a small private service.

About 20 people attended the service in Edinburgh's George Square followed by a cremation ceremony at the Mortonhall Crematorium.

William, seven, and John, four, were murdered by their father, Patrick, who was later found guilty and hanged at Calton Jail.

Chris Paton, a genealogist from Scotland's Greatest Story, said Edinburgh University had "done the right thing".

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Plea for return of stolen remains
09 Jan 08 |  Edinburgh, East and Fife

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