Former chief prosecutor reveals brother's body kept in fridge

Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal reveals his brother’s body was kept in an industrial fridge in a marquee for six days because of a ‘300 body backlog’ after he died of coronavirus

  • Family of Umar Afzal, 71, were unable to bury him due to backlog in Birmingham
  • Birmingham mosques have turned their car parks into temporary morgues
  • He died at height of outbreak, when there were more than 100 deaths a day 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Former Chief prosecutor for the north-west of England Nazir Afzal has revealed his brother’s body was kept in an industrial fridge for six days after he died from coronavirus.

The family were left unable to bury Umar Afzal, 71, who had worked as a home office interpreter, because of a ‘300 body backlog’ in his home city, Birmingham.

The Midlands had been handling more than a hundred deaths a day in hospital alone for more than a week before Mr Afzal died at home on April 8, data from NHS England reveals. 

As many as 178 deaths were recorded in hospital on the day of his death. 

The family were unable to bury the body of Umar Afzal, 71, (left), for nine days due to the backlog, said former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal (right)

Mosques in Birmingham have transformed their car parks into temporary morgues to deal with the sudden rise in deaths recorded in the city

Nazir Afzal told the BBC: ‘They didn’t have any space in the morgue, so arrangements were made with a private undertaker.

‘He remained in bed for the best part of eight hours… the family were all there and we wore masks and had gloves.

‘The undertaker turned up but it is policy for them not to come into the house. He gave us the body bag and we carried him down the stairs.’

The former prosecutor, who initiated prosecutions in the Rochdale sex trafficking gang case, said the undertaker told them he had 14 bodies to collect that day.

They buried his brother nine days after his death owing to the backlog. In Islamic tradition the aim is to bury the deceased within 24 hours.

Birmingham mosques turned their car parks into temporary morgues following the spike in deaths. A volunteer has claimed that this was in order to avoid compulsory cremations.

Pictured above is the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif’s car park on April 20

A body is pictured here being brought into the mosques storage facility before burial

Large marques have been erected to cover the industrial freezing units at the mosques

Pavilions containing the storage units were erected at the Central Jamia Mosque Ghamkol Sharif and the Green Lane Mosque in the city.

The Central mosque had five units installed in less than two weeks, and trained volunteers to transport bodies and prepare them for burial.

This involved washing and shrouding them before placing the body into a coffin ready to be taken to a cemetery, a volunteer said. 

There have been 3,438 deaths in the Midlands to date, which has experienced the second largest coronavirus outbreak behind London. 

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