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YrowLIFE: My son lay in an morgue for 18 months.

Byline: As told to ABIGAIL JACKSON

THE killing of her son was the start of a five-year nightmare for Cathy Franklin. Cathy, 31, from Bland ford St Mary, Dorset, tells how the fight for justice which followed went all the way to the top...

FIVE years ago, I was like any young mum, working and caring for my new baby, Ryan. But everything changed when Ryan was taken away from me, killed by his father at two years old.

When I was 24 a friend introduced me to a man called Lee Khair. He was only 20 and we had a brief fling for a few weeks.

I didn't expect anything more to come of it but three months later I found I was pregnant. Lee was a soldier stationed 100 miles away at a barracks in Hereford and after Ryan was born, I thought he had a right to know he was a dad.

I was surprised by his response. "I want to be a proper dad," he said. I was pleased and agreed Lee could visit at weekends.

Within weeks, I thought I'd made the right decision. Lee turned out to be a doting, hands-on dad and always honoured his child-maintenance payments.

I could tell how much Ryan was benefiting from having his dad around too. His beautiful little face lit up every time he saw Lee walk through the door.

When Ryan was two, I decided to go away for a holiday with my friend, Emma, to Ayia Napa in Cyprus. It was the first time I'd left him but I arranged for my parents to have Ryan half the time and Lee offered to stay at my house to look after his son for the rest.

It was hard kissing Ryan goodbye before I left for the airport but I assured myself he was in safe hands.

I rang home the very next day to check everything was OK. I did the same the second day too. But this time, my sister Tracy said: "You have to come home. Ryan fell down the stairs and injured his head. He's unconscious."

Maybe I was in shock but I felt sure he'd wake up as soon as he heard my voice.

I caught the next flight home and was met by a CID officer who drove me to Southampton General Hospital. Before he ushered me inside, he said there was something he had to tell me.

He said: "We're holding Lee Khair for questioning. We think he may have been responsible for hurting Ryan."

I was confused. I thought Ryan had fallen down the stairs.

Besides, Lee adored Ryan. Why would he hurt him?

My head was in a whirl as I rushed to Ryan's bedside. Wearing only a nappy, he looked tiny and lifeless. His head was strapped to the bed to stop him moving even an inch. The only sound came from the life-support machine beeping.

Suddenly I realised the police were right. A fall hadn't caused this. A consultant came to see me and told me Ryan didn't have long left. I refused to believe it.

"Come on, Ryan," I whispered. "If you get better, Mummy can take you home." But two day: It was beyond my worst couldn't nimagine life without my son.

I was told we'd have to wait a couple of week for the results of a post mortem before we'd be allowed to bury Ryan.

That time passed in a blur. Some days I elt tortured with sorrow others I was numb to the world. I just hoped the funeral would bring some relief.

Then the police said Ryan's body needed to be held for another few weeks for Lee's defence team to defenc carry out further forensic tests.I was angry at the delay. Lee hadn't even been charged and surely there had been plenty of time for tests to be run.

I contacted a local funeral director and asked him to start preparing for Ryan's funeral. But five weeks on, I was told Ryan's body still wasn't being released.

It seemed absurd. All I wanted to do was lay my baby to rest yet I was being deprived of that right.

And there were further blows to come. One day I found out that Ryan's body had been moved from Southampton to Dorchester without anyone consulting me.

I was livid - it would only have taken one phone call to let me know where my son's body was but no one had bothered.

In September 2002, four months after Ryan's death, Lee was charged with his murder. Finally, I thought, things would start to move. But in fact, the situation got worse. I was told Lee's defence team had been granted a court injunction banning the release of Ryan's body indefinitely. I wasn't even allowed to contest the decision.

I wanted to scream: "He's my baby. Give him back."

Nearing the first anniversary of Ryan's death, he was still lying in a morgue refrigerator. Ryan and I were the victims in all this but nobody seemed to care.

So I sat down and wrote a letter to my MP Bob Walter. I even wrote to Tony Blair. The only responses I received were letters of apology. According to law, there was no limit to the time a body could be detained.

In October 2003 Lee appeared at Winchester Crown Court charged with murder. I sat, listening to the details of Ryan's injuries. There were 40 bruises on his body, including finger marks down his sides from where he'd been gripped and extensive bruising on the back of his head. One specialist said the injuries were consistent with him being thrown across a room.

Lee continued to deny any knowledge of how Ryan had been injured. The jury cleared him of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven years. It was justice of some form but it didn't make me feel any better.

Finally, a month after the trial, I was allowed to lay Ryan to rest. Over 100 people came to his funeral. I had Ryan's name spelt out in flowers and we played the Westlife song Close at his graveside.

By the time I actually said goodbye to my son, he'd been dead for 18 months.

I thought I'd feel better after the funeral but I continued to feel angry about how I'd been treated. How dare the authorities keep Ryan for a year and a half?

I didn't want anyone else to suffer like I had so I decided to try and change the law.

I started speaking out to anyone who would listen and set up a website, www.justiceforryan.com. The feedback was amazing. Other families who'd been through similar heartache told me their stories, and encouraged me not to give up.

With the help of family and friends, I collected over a thousand signatures calling for the maximum length of time bodies could be held to be reduced to three months. Bob Walter presented it to the House of Commons.

Last month, after three and a half years of campaigning, Bob received a letter from Harriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs Minister, promising reform.

In it, it said Parliament is intending to reduce the amount of time bodies can be held to 40 days, even less than the three months I'd campaigned for. I've been told the Bill could be enacted next April and I'm hoping it will be known as Ryan's Law.

It was a bittersweet victory. I am still angry that it had to be my baby's death that brought about this change in the law. But at least in his memory, no family should have to go through the unnecessary and prolonged pain and anguish I have.

Kissing goodbye was hard but I was sure he was in safe hands

All I wanted to do was lay my baby to rest but I was deprived that right

CAPTION(S):

SO SWEET: Ryan in 2002 TRUST: Ryan with his father Lee Picture: JAMES VELLACOTT' LAWMAKER: Cathy fought for justice
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2006
Words:1350
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