Norfolk police “sorry” for distress over body parts of baby killed by North Walsham childminder

Joseph Mackin. Joseph Mackin.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
8:58 AM

Norfolk police have admitted that for more than a decade they held on to body parts of a baby shaken to death by his North Walsham childminder.

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Helen Stacey, convicted of murdering Joseph Mackin in 1998. Her conviction was later reduced to manslaughter. Picture: Alban Donohoe Picture Service.Helen Stacey, convicted of murdering Joseph Mackin in 1998. Her conviction was later reduced to manslaughter. Picture: Alban Donohoe Picture Service.

Officers had to contact the family of Joseph Mackin not once, but twice, after 2010 and explain that they still held organs and tissue removed as part of investigations into the five-month-old’s death in April 1997.

Now police have said sorry and overhauled their practices to avoid a repeat of the horror.

Joseph’s mother, Corinne Budinger, told a national newspaper, that each time the police contacted her she had held another funeral for her baby boy - making a total of three traumatic ceremonies.

Little Joseph was killed by his childminder Helen Stacey at her home in Fairstead Close after she shook him, in a flash of temper.

Corinne Mackin, now Budinger, pictured at the time of Helen Stacey's trial for the murder of baby Joseph Mackin. Picture:  JOHN McLELLAN.Corinne Mackin, now Budinger, pictured at the time of Helen Stacey's trial for the murder of baby Joseph Mackin. Picture: JOHN McLELLAN.

Stacey, then 41, who had previous convictions for prostitution and shoplifting and who had three of her own children either adopted or taken into care, denied murder but was convicted at Norwich Crown Court in July 1998.

In 2001 her conviction was reduced, on appeal, to manslaughter and her sentence cut from life to seven years.

Mrs Budinger, who now lives in Ipswich, told the national paper: “No mother should have to bury their baby three times.”

She said when police visited her out of the blue, she had felt ill. “When they turned up again, that was enough to send me over the edge. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had panic attacks and had to quit my job.”

A spokesman for Norfolk police said that in 2010 all police forces had to conduct an audit of any human tissue samples kept as part of criminal investigations that had since been concluded.

She added: “We sought to undertake the notifying of families sensitively, prioritising the wishes of the families affected.

“Unfortunately Mrs Budinger was contacted twice by family liaison officers as part of this process and Norfolk Constabulary has issued a full apology for the distress caused.

“Procedures have been reviewed to ensure families are notified of any samples taken and their wishes noted when the samples are no longer needed for the investigation.”

Police declined to comment on whether they had paid damages to Mrs Budinger following legal action against them.

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