A family that had been fighting for more than a month to bring home the body of a man after his death in Vietnam said he had been “lost” repeatedly on the road and had returned to the UK in a dilapidated condition.
Denver Barfield, of Leicester, died in the early hours of May 16 when the bike he was riding collided with an electric pole on the side of the road. He had been traveling in Asia for three months and was only 24 years old.
His family said they received little or no support from the Foreign Office or the British Embassy to help bring him home.
During the weeks that Mr. Barfield’s body was in Vietnam, the family was given some updates.
It was his mother, Debsy Clayton, in the beginning He is harassed by a man who pretends to be a coroner and demands $12,500 (£10,000) to bring him home Graphic images of Denver’s body at the crash site were sent when the bill was not immediately paid.
It later turned out that this was a cruel hoax.
In the days following Mr. Barfield’s death, the family struggled to get an answer as to the whereabouts of his body.
His sister, Charlie Clayton, told Sky News: ‘I spoke to British police and we were told they don’t know where Denver’s body is.
“The embassy in Vietnam later told us that his body was in one place and that it was safe. But then my mother was told that this was not true, and they did not know where Denver’s body was.”
The family eventually received a £12,000 bill from a legitimate funeral home to take him back to the UK. But due to their previous experience, they were wary and wanted to check first before sending money.
“I called the embassy and one of the women told me, ‘You’re going to have to call again tomorrow and chase this because my shift just ended,'” Charlie said.
Not a piece of handbag
Mr. Barfield was eventually put on a flight on May 27. His sister said the family had been told this would be direct, but instead the passenger plane made a nine-hour layover in Istanbul.
On May 28, Debsey Clayton called the local hospital, where they were told that Mr. Barfield would be brought in, and were told that they did not know the location of his body.
“My mom was hysterical,” Charlie said.
“How can you lose a body? It’s not like a piece of handbag.”
Barfield’s mother then called the police, only to be informed that the matter was not the business of the police. Charlie said a member of the control room crew asked her mother to “assemble herself.”
The following Monday, two days after his arrival in the UK, they finally received word from the funeral director that Mr Barfield had arrived with them – but his papers were still missing.
Denver was “severely disfigured” and lost his shoes
When the family went to see him at the funeral home in the UK, staff warned them that he was “severely disfigured” and that he had not been embalmed.
“He was in such a bad shape,” Charlie said.
“Funeral directors told me they had never seen anything like it with his discoloration and condition.”
Mr Barfield had returned to the UK with the clothes he was wearing – which the family were told smelled of faeces and bodily fluids – and the rug used by the Vietnamese authorities to cover him after the incident.
However, his expensive shoes were missing.
Charlie said she “couldn’t breathe” when she entered the room to get to know her brother.
“I had a panic attack in the hallway.
“Denver had his whole life ahead of him – he had so many things he wanted to do.
“He loved life. For me, to walk into that room and see him, I knew then that he wouldn’t come home.”
Barfield’s body has since been moved for an autopsy in the UK, and the family is now awaiting the results. An investigation was also opened into his death.
‘No support’ from UK authorities
The family criticized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy for lack of support.
“The State Department just emailed me a post that was supposed to help me, but even that didn’t contain a step-by-step guide of what we should do to help bring Denver home,” Charlie said.
“We were completely alone.”
She said the family is speaking out because they don’t want anyone else to go through what they have.
The State Department was asked to respond to the family’s story, but it did not answer any of the questions asked by Sky News.
Instead, a company spokesperson said in a statement: “Our employees support the families of a British man and woman who died in a traffic accident in Vietnam.”
The police apologized
Leicestershire Police offered their condolences to the family and confirmed that they had received a complaint, and that it had been dealt with by the force’s Professional Standards Division.
“During the force’s initial response at the time of Mr Barfield’s death, the Ombudsman found that officers acted in good faith and sought to provide assistance and support to Mr Barfield’s family, including working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and subsequently with the Office of Forensic Medicine,” the Office of Forensic Medicine said in a statement.
“We have apologized to Mr Barfield’s family following the initial breakdown in communication regarding the roles and responsibilities of Leicestershire Police.
“We have and continue to provide full support to Mr Barfield’s family during this very difficult time and the neighborhood officer remains in place as a dedicated point of contact for the family.
“The complaint handler reviewed a call made to the force’s control room and found that the call handler handled the call in a courteous and professional manner.”