When Rani Ullyett’s son went missing in November, she fell into despair. She had no idea where he could be but prayed that he would come back alive. Alas, her prayers were not answered as she wanted. Her son, 28-year-old Warren, washed up on the beach in Calais weeks after his disappearance. And because she had finally found her son’s corpse, mom was ready to put him to rest and honor his life with a funeral.
But when it came time to bury Warren, the coroner refused to let mom have her son’s body. As a result, she was forced to bury an empty casket as all of Warren’s loved ones and friends watched on in horror.
Warren went missing on November 4, 2017. And weeks later, his body appeared on the beaches near Calais on December 12, 2017.
But after attempts to identify Warren’s corpse through his dental records failed, the coroner was not legally allowed to release his body for his funeral. Although his mother knew it was her son and had made all the arrangements for his funeral that Saturday, the coroner said no and kept possession of the corpse.
Although the coroner had made the decision, the funeral director failed to tell Rani Ullyett that her son’s body would not be released until two days before the funeral. And the funeral director refused to issue a refund so it could not be canceled or rescheduled.
Although the casket was empty, hundreds of people gathered for the service in Canterbury, Kent. They wanted to remember Warren, who would have turned 29 days later.
They were all stunned that his body was not there.
Rani said, “I knew when I was organizing it that January 29 was risky, but I did expect to be told by the coroner’s office if they weren’t going to release his body. They told the funeral directors, but they didn’t tell me. It was just horrible.”
Close family members delivered touching eulogies nevertheless. And they shared photos of the young man throughout different stages of his life.
And as the mourners entered the crematorium, the speakers blared the Johnny Cash song “Walk the Line.” They also shared songs by the Animals, Bryan Adams, and Plan B.
Although Warren’s official death date was December 12, Rani thinks he died weeks before that.
She has no idea how long the coroner plans to hold onto his body. But when it is ready to be released, she said his cremation would be an intimate affair.
Although French authorities identified his body, their U.K. counterparts are slow to formally ID him.
His mother said: “Everyone was shocked when they found out his body wasn’t there. But there were loads of people brought together because they’d known him somewhere, somehow. It was quite human and civilized; we did cry, but we also laughed. One chap showed me a picture of Warren with his five-year-old autistic son asleep on him and said ‘my son opened up when Warren talked to him’. It was a tribute to Warren as a whole: The good, the bad, funny and ugly. It wasn’t uplifting because there was a lot of tears, hurt and questions.”
Police continue to investigate the cause of the young man’s death.