Woman told she must go and ‘pick up partner’s body’ from funeral parlour

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A bereaved woman has told of the shocking call she received that made her feel like felt like "being kicked when I was already down".

Sonya Smith’s long-term partner Rich Birch died suddenly on October 3 at the age of just 51.

She contacted a Hull firm called Heavenly Funeral Services to look after the cremation, but she was abruptly called a day before the service and told to get her partner "picked up” from the funeral home as the service wouldn’t be going ahead.

It was revealed that Heavenly Funeral Services’ owner, Simon Woolsten, had himself suddenly passed away – making it impossible to proceed.

Sonya, 41, told Hull Live: "I was taking my son to school when I got a phone call from a not very sympathetic and abrupt voice said 'I'm sorry but we are not able to do the funeral anymore and we want you to get him picked up'.

"I was just so shocked. I don't even remember what I said in response. I felt like saying 'what on earth am I supposed to do, send a taxi?'

"I've never had to do anything like this before and didn't even know what to say, I just said 'what do I do?'"

Fortunately, she was able to go straight to her son's school office, at St Richard's VC Academy, in Marfleet Lane, where staff and teachers have been supporting the family through their trauma.

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School staff got on the phone to Heavenly Services and also arranged for another funeral director to collect Rich's body and handle the funeral.

Sonya said: "I was in the right place at the right time, they've been amazing. Without them, I think I'd have had a nervous breakdown.

"I felt like I had been punched in the stomach when they rang and told me."

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Rich had lived with Sonya, his partner of 15 years, in Hull with their nine-year-old son Riley, and Sonya's older son from a previous relationship.

He discovered he had a brain aneurysm in 2013, after he was scanned following a mild stroke.

Rich lived with the knowledge that it could burst at any time, and it went on the Sunday morning of October 3, when he was at home with Sonya and Riley.

Sonya agreed to donate his organs while he was on life support after being told he was brain dead. Surgeons managed to transplant his kidneys and liver, and his heart was used for medical research.

His funeral, which is now being handled by Mike East Funeral Services, is now scheduled for October 28.

Heavenly Funeral Services did not respond to Hull Live’s request for comment.

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