Tooting funeral home responds to accusations of malpractice


An undercover reporter, whose footage was broadcast in an ITV documentary, filmed workers at Gillman Funeral Services.


By Grant Cloughton, Jonathan Garbett, Amy Hopkins & Jemima Owen

A funeral home in Tooting is responding to accusations of malpractice, including staff using racist language and mocking the dead.

Undercover reporter Tom Ellis, whose footage was broadcast in an ITV documentary last week, filmed workers at Gillman Funeral Services in Tooting.

Mr Ellis’s footage appeared to show staff watching pornographic clips while driving a hearse and chanting “Chelsea scum” at a corpse.

Another scene appeared to show a corpse being stripped by an embalmer as she and a colleague joked around, singing David Rose’s ‘The Stripper’.

Another employee was videoed uttering racist comments at a funeral attended by Afro-Caribbean mourners. 

The industry code of practice for funeral homes, published by the Health Protection Agency, specifies that staff should act in a courteous, sensitive, dignified and professional manner and unregulated practice is cause for concern.

Gillman’s chief executive, Phillip Greenfield, launched an internal investigation at all six branches – Tooting, Balham, Battersea, Norbury, Carshalton and Mitcham – and an external enquiry into company procedures, standards and training.

He said: “I take any breaches of our procedures or working practices extremely seriously so I suspended six members of staff, pending the outcome of the investigations.

“Gillman Funeral Service has a long and proud history of working with people in the local community and serves everyone sensitively and appropriately.”

Mr Greenfield assured clients that the remainder of his 300 strong workforce conducted their trade in a dignified and respectful manner and he hopes to resolve the difficult issue as soon as possible.

Although five other funeral homes in the area declined to comment, Steven Knox of Knox Brothers’ Funeral Home in Wimbledon, said: “It’s disgusting, you don’t treat people like that – you’ve got to think about peoples’ families.”

Although a police spokesman said they are not currently investigating the allegations, the public have reacted strongly.

Robert and Susie Austin of Tooting said: “If this happened to a member of our family, we’d be devastated. It’s an abuse of trust.”

In light of this documentary, Funeral Partners Ltd, who took over Gillman in 2010, have sacked four members of staff and suspended a fifth.

Gillman are not the first funeral home to come under fire for poor practice. In June Channel 4’s Dispatches revealed that the Co-operative funeral firm was storing bodies in an unrefrigerated warehouse.

Mr Ellis’s footage appears in Exposure: The British Way of Death available online at until October 26.

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