Devastated grandparents are desperate for answers over the whereabouts of their grandchildren after the death of their mother in a Pakistan hospital.
Judy and Sean Devlin, from Burnley, last saw 27-year-old single mum Kelsey in 2021 before she took her children Zara and Zain to Islamabad after being told her Pakistani mother-in-law was dying.
Three weeks later Kelsey was dead in hospital after falling ill the day after she arrived at her ex-partner’s home. She was buried before her parents had even been told she had died, the Mirror reports.
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Heartbroken Judy and Sean have since had no contact with their grandchildren – and have no idea where they are. They eventually were sent a picture of a death certificate for Kelsey but claim it contains “huge inconsistencies”, with questions remaining over how she died.
Fighting back tears Sean, 55, of Burnley, said: “I’ve lost my little girl and I don’t even know where she is buried. That is barbaric. There are so many unanswered questions about how she died – we just want to bring her home.”
Judy added: “No official person came to tell us Kelsey had died. Nobody offered us help. We were devastated.
“We had to have a funeral here without a body. We just want to bring her home and give her a Christian burial. And we want answers about her death.”
Kelsey flew out to Islamabad on June 3, 2021 with Zara and Zain – now 10 and eight years old – to see her ex-partner’s mother, said to be dying. Her ex did not go with her. The day after she arrived at the Pakistan capital she phoned Judy to say she was unwell. The next day she sent a message that she was in hospital.
Mum-of-10 Judy, 49, said: “We kept ringing the hospital but couldn’t get to speak to her. We were told she had Covid, then sepsis, then she was in a coma.” Kelsey was moved to another hospital on June 15 and the family finally managed to see her on a video message. She told them she couldn’t wait to get home but felt like her insides were “burning”.
Sean said: “I was ringing the British Embassy every day desperate for news – we were so worried we couldn’t sleep. Eventually someone from the Embassy said they would go and visit Kelsey, but they never did.” On July 1, her sister Chloe was stunned to receive a message from Kelsey’s ex, saying she had died in the night.
Then daughter Zara called. Chloe, 25, said: “Zara said mum had passed away and that is all we heard. We haven’t had any contact with the children since. It’s absolutely crushing.” Following frantic months of requests for the death certificate, Kelsey’s distraught parents were sent the picture bearing the logo of Holy Family Hospital in Rawalpindi, 12 miles south of Islamabad.
But its mysterious inaccuracies raised even more questions for the couple. The certificate gave the cause of death for the previously healthy Kelsey as sepsis, a stroke and cardiopulmonary arrest.
But it got her age wrong and stated she had been an epileptic from birth – which her family say is not true. It also showed she was married and had converted to Islam, which the family denies.
Sean said: “Kelsey had never been ill in her life. She played football semi-professionally. She had never had epilepsy.” Not knowing where to turn, the couple enlisted the help of local vicar Father Alex Frost, who has been asking the police and Government questions on their behalf. Both the Foreign Office and Lancashire Police told him Kelsey’s death was the responsibility of Pakistani officials.
He said: “Sometimes I feel we have been banging our head against a brick wall. When I first rang the Foreign Office to report her death, they told me to do it on an online portal, like reporting a missing dog. I was furious. It would be my dream to get Sean to Pakistan so he could finally get the answers the family deserves about Kelsey and bring her home.”
Judy said: “No official person came to tell us she had died. Nobody offered us any help. We were devastated. We just want to bring her home.” In October the grieving family held a funeral ceremony without a coffin. Hundreds attended. After an appeal from Father Alex, Burnley’s Tory MP Antony Higginbotham joined forces with Labour’s Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, to lobby the Government to intervene in the case.
They called for Kelsey’s body to be exhumed “for the purpose of a full autopsy and repatriation to the UK, and the children to be returned to the UK to their grandparents”.
Mr Higginbotham said: “The key to answers lies with authorities in Pakistan. Having raised this with Foreign Office, the Pakistan High Commission, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the time of Kelsey’s death, I continue to urge the government in Islamabad to open an independent investigation.” The Foreign Office told us: “We are supporting the family of a British national who sadly died in Pakistan.” Lancashire Police said it was a matter for the Pakistani authorities. Meanwhile the family are haunted by thoughts of how Zara and Zain are coping without their mum.
Chloe said: “Kelsey was the best mum – she was with the kids all the time, they must be lost without her. Her favourite thing was to take them to the park and one of the local inflatable playgrounds.
“We all loved spending time together as one big family. I used to stay over at Kelsey’s all the time.” Sean added: “Kelsey’s life matters, and I just feel like because we are a family off an estate in Burnley, no one is interested. We have not only lost our daughter but also two grandkids. We don’t even know where they live or go to school.”
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