Eli Frankham’s widow died of natural causes, according to post-mortem following body exhumation

Gertrude Frankham.

Gertrude Frankham. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant

POLICE revealed last night that preliminary results on a post-mortem conducted on the exhumed body of the widow of gypsy rights campaigner Eli Frankham confirmed she had died of natural causes.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Wisbech.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Wisbech. - Credit: Archant

The information was revealed in a short press release from police headquarters which followed days of intense drama and speculation following an overnight exhumation in a Wisbech cemetery.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “Early indications from the results of Gertrude Frankham’s post-mortem examination, carried out on behalf of HM Coroner, show she died from natural causes.

“The post mortem took place following concerns raised by her family to Norfolk Constabulary in April 2013.”

Police confirmed family members had been notified “of the early results” but it could be some days before final confirmation.


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The open-ended statement, however, did not give any indication of the reasons why police had suspected foul play.

Earlier this week police would only confirm the coroner had consented to exhuming the body of the 75-year-old widow following concerns expressed by her family.

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Gertrude, known by family and friends as Gert, died in December at her Walpole St Andrew home, 12 years after the death of her husband Eli.

He had won national plaudits for his work in setting up a Romani gypsy support group that, by the time he died, had attracted a membership of more than 100,000 of which he headed.

Not only had the self-taught gypsy leader become a veteran campaigner on behalf of gypsy and traveller families, but he was renowned both for his writings and poetry.

His widow continued in the tradition of her husband’s self-assured lifestyle but on a smaller scale: her campaigns though for travellers’ rights and battling planners over the ‘right to a site’ continued long after his death.

Fenland District Council owns the cemetery in which Gertrude is buried and its officers stood guard, with police and Home Office officials, throughout Tuesday night as the exhumation was carried out.

On Wednesday reporters were asked by family members, who stayed on at the cemetery, not to identify or photograph the grave from which the body of Mrs Frankham had been exhumated.

It was a request we, along with broadcast media, agreed.

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