Husband claims late wife’s ring taken apart at GWH

This Is Wiltshire: Helena Crawford Helena Crawford

A BEREAVED husband has claimed jewels were stolen from his wife after she passed away at the Great Western Hospital.

Helena Crawford, 57, who had developed serious health problems over the past two years died following a stroke while hospitalised at the Neptune Ward on Monday, November 25.

When her husband Duncan drove to GWH from his Freshbrook home to collect her belongings the following Thursday, he was handed a bag containing broken bits of gold in place of his wife’s antique amethyst and diamond ring.

The stones had been ripped out of what remained of the frame, he said. The half-carat diamond from her first engagement ring, which she had mounted as a pendant, was also gone.

To his surprise, the 57-year-old was told that the rest of her jewels had been left on her body but staff were unable to explain what happened to the vanished pendant and stones.

He was however assured that, as far as records showed, the ring had not been forcibly removed for medical reasons.

“Somebody took advantage of a dead person,” said Duncan, a retired programmes director. “The antique ring was a unique piece worth around £500 and had a particular significance to us. It was the first antique piece I ever bought her from a shop in Bond Street.

“Somebody had destroyed it and there was no medical reason for it. She was wasting away so her jewellery was hanging off her and there would have been no reason to cut if off.

“The diamond on the pendant was from the first engagement ring that I bought her. She kept it on a chain and she was never without it. To me it’s clear that someone has stolen them and taken the bits that were valuable.

“She was also wearing five other rings but they refused to give them to me and said it was the responsibility of the undertaker.

“To add insult to injury her mobile phone was stolen. But it was listed on the property form they gave me. I refused to sign it. They have since told me the phone was found but they have made no effort to contact me or give it back.”

He has since set out to uncover exactly what happened to the precious mementos of their early life together, and has contacted the hospital’s chief executive, staff on the Neptune Ward and the bereavement service asking them to investigate the alleged thefts.

Duncan said: “I can deal with it but what bothers me about all this is that if it happens to a vulnerable person who has already lost a spouse, how will they deal with that?”

A GWH spokesman said a senior staff member was in contact with Mr Crawford yesterday. They are currently investigating his claims. “The security of patient belongings is important and we take these allegations very seriously,” he said. “We were made aware of Mr Crawford’s concerns on Monday and immediately launched an investigation. When jewellery is removed for medical reasons it is placed in a security bag.

“We will be in contact with Mr Crawford this week to update him on the investigation.”

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