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Eurofins Scientific cyber attack delays fathers funeral

By Ed McConnell

A son has waited three months to lay his father to rest after a cyber-attack on a forensics laboratory delayed a DNA test.

Firefighters found the body of Roger Newnham, 71, in his home in Orchid Close, Strood, at the end of March.

It was first thought he had died as a result of a fire which had engulfed his bungalow and son Alex, 42, said he spent a week fearing his father had accidentally set himself on fire while refilling his lighter.

Roger Newnham died in March (12953852)
Roger Newnham died in March (12953852)

Mr Newnham was blinded following a shotgun accident in Cobham Woods when he was 18 and his mobility deteriorated in recent years meaning he’d regularly sit inside and smoke.

But a post-mortem later revealed there was no soot in the grandfather-of-one’s lungs and that he’d died as result of undiagnosed chronic COPD — a respiratory issue.

Alex now thinks his father passed away while lighting up, dropping his Zippo lighter on the floor and setting fire to his home.

Police have since confirmed it was not suspicious.

"I’ve got family asking me when the funeral is and thinking they’ve missed it...” Alex Newham

The extent of the blaze meant a sample of DNA had to be taken from the body to prove categorically the remains are Mr Newnham’s.

While Alex has been given a temporary death certificate he can’t arrange a funeral until the death is formally confirmed.

But a recent ransomware attack on the forensics firm Kent Police works with has meant the laboratory is on lock down.

Alex said: “The samples were not submitted until May 15. I’d given a sample in mid April after the post-mortem came back.

“It’s been his birthday and Father’s Day since he died and we still haven’t been able to have the funeral.

Roger Newnham died in March (12953850)
Roger Newnham died in March (12953850)

“Now I’ve been told they don’t know when I’ll get the results because the lab is on lock down.

“I’ve got family asking me when the funeral is and thinking they’ve missed it.”

Eurofins Scientific was targeted by hackers at the start of June and as a result police forces around the country have suspended all work with the firm until further notice. The situation has resulted in mounting backlogs and delays in court cases and investigations.

Mr Newnham was an F1 fanatic and would drink in the nearby Bounty pub on Bligh Way.

Speaking at the time of his death, friend and fellow regular Tom Wilson, 62, said: “He was a lovely bloke. Everyone will tell you that."

The Bungalow in Orchid Close, Strood, where Roger died. Picture: Matthew Walker
The Bungalow in Orchid Close, Strood, where Roger died. Picture: Matthew Walker

The retired engineer had always lived in Strood and used to inspect aircraft at Rochester Airport-based BAE Systems when it was GEC Aveonics.

He would be allowed to take his guide dog in to work and leave it in a kennel while he checked drill holes were correctly placed using touch. Mr Newnham and his then wife Fern Calcutt used to run the Rose and Crown pub in Wouldham, which has since closed.

He met her when living in a bed sit in Strood which he moved into after the shotgun accident.

“He used to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the bloke who shot him but I told him it was an accident and if that hadn’t happened he would never have met mum and I wouldn’t be here,” said Alex.

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