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Newspaper cutting from 1963 reporting on patient found alive in the mortuary

Undertaker makes shocking discovery in mortuary

Undertakers got the shock of their lives when a patient declared dead at Willesden General Hospital showed signs of life when she was transferred to the mortuary.

Miss Elsie Waring, 35, was rushed to hospital after a caretaker at the block of flats where she lived in Ellerslie Gardens, Willesden, found her lying unconscious.

Medics spent an hour trying to revive Elsie before declaring her dead just after midday on December 13, 1963.

She was placed in a coffin and taken to Kilburn Mortuary several hours later.

Undertaker Hugh Bellwood and his assistant got the shock of their lives as they checked the deceased.

Mr Bellwood said: “As we lifted the body from the coffin onto a metal tray there was a sort of gasp. This often happens with people who are really dead, but a second gasp almost stopped us in our tracks.

 “I said to my assistant ‘good god’ she is alive.”

A doctor in the mortuary subsequently found signs of faint breathing and Elsie was rushed back to hospital but died a day later having failed to regained consciousness.

Pathologist David Bowen later gave evidence at an enquiry saying the combination of a barbiturate overdose and hypothermia gave the false impression of death.

The coroner concluded that Elsie’s premature trip to the mortuary hadn’t contributed to her death and that ‘in the history of medicine nothing more could have been done to revive this woman.”

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