Sunday 7 September 2008

Back from the dead

Just imagine cremating someone you think is your father, and then five years later you see him alive and well on TV. First you'd think it must be his double. Then you’d think, Jeez that IS my father - so who the hell got cremated?

A Manchester man found out that the father he thought was dead and gone was actually living in a care home but had lost his memory and didn’t know who he was.

The man earlier named as his father was a body found outside a hospital wearing clothes like his father’s. He had lain undiscovered for so long (I’m putting it politely) he was difficult to identify.

The police had issued an appeal with photos of the real John Delaney but when he was found wandering round central Manchester in a confused state, with bruises and amnesia, social workers didn’t make the connection and gave him a new name.

They couldn’t appeal for information about him because under the law at that time they had to have consent from a relative first.

So he languished in the care home until quite by chance his son (also John) happened to switch on a TV programme about missing people and there was the familiar face. It must have been quite a shock.

Well, I guess you’d be ecstatic (as his son was) if you’d loved your dad to bits and suddenly there he was back from the dead. On the other hand, if you’d loathed your dad and you were only too glad to see the back of him, what a nasty jolt if he turned up again! I suppose you could always turn off the TV sharpish and forget you ever saw him.

But for five years, the son must have been agonising about how his father’s body came to be undiscovered for so long and what dreadful circumstances had led to his death. He must have been thinking that if he’d kept a closer eye on him he’d still be alive. While all the time he WAS alive and had all the care he needed.

And what about the other family, the family of the cremated man? They’ll never know what happened to their own missing relative. He’ll always be just a huge question mark.


  1. Isn't truth stranger than fiction, Nick?
    Whilst totally sympathetic to all concerned, my writerly mind was working on the short story. There is a story there for sure.

  2. www - It's an extraordinary story. When he saw his dad on TV, he must have thought he was going mad - or he'd had one too many.

    Heart - It's pretty weird, isn't it? I think the weirdest thing is the other family forever being in the dark.

  3. WOW - It's like something out of a twilight zone episode!

  4. I kept thinking of this story pitted against the Darwin story, and it made me cross!

    Sorry I have been such a negligent blogger. I've been checking in with yours regularly, but haven't had time to post. I'm back, although perhaps little slower than normal...

  5. Quicky - I never followed Twilight Zone, but I'll take your word for it! His father was certainly in a twilight zone of sorts.

    FG - An interesting comparison - two apparent deaths, one a fake and the other a mistaken identity. It makes me think of those other stories where someone is certified dead and then wakes up and asks what's happening.

  6. that is an incredible story... I've read it twice and still trying to get my head around it...

  7. Conor, me too. It just occurred to me - I wonder if he told his dad about the mix-up? And if so, what was his dad's reaction? The more I think about, the crazier it gets.

  8. It's TOTALLY Twilight Zone. Quite creepy but thank goodness the son just happened to turn on the TV. It's an interesting story and it would be fascinating if, as you say, they didn't like the father and had inherited a bunch of money and so saw it as being in their best interests to leave the dad there.

  9. Liz, that's another point I never thought of. As you say, supposing John junior had inherited a stack of money? Though presumably if he'd tried to withdraw money from his dad's account, the bank would have said the account was still in use?