'Cremated' Dad Reunited With Family 5 Years Later

Man who disappeared in 2000 reappears five years after his own funeral.

Sept. 5, 2008 — -- As he came home from working a late shift in April, John Renehan caught a glimpse of his father's face on TV -- a shocking sight, considering that his father had been cremated five years ago.

Or so he thought.

"I knew it was him straight away. I saw the last few seconds of the BBC 'Missing Live' program and I saw a glimpse of my father," Renehan told ABCNews.com.

And he was right. Renehan was soon reunited with his father, John Delaney, eight years after reporting him missing and five years after the family held a funeral for a man they believed to be Delaney.

Delaney went missing in April 2000, and in January 2003 a badly decomposed body was found on the grounds of a hospital near the family's home in Manchester, northern England.

According to police statements, the body matched the description of Delaney and had very similar marks from injuries he was known to have suffered in the past. The body was also dressed in clothes matching the description given when Delaney was reported missing. Police passed the evidence on to the coroner, who formally identified the body as Delaney.

The body was cremated, and the family held a funeral.

But Delaney, now 71, was not dead at all.

Amnesia, 'Confused State'

It turns out Delaney had actually been put into a care home after being found wandering the streets with memory loss.

According to police statements, in April 2000, just days after he had disappeared, Delaney was taken to the hospital in a "confused state." He had no recollection of his own identity, and authorities were able to identify him. He was diagnosed with amnesia as the result of a brain injury and was taken to a care home, where he remained for eight years.

The BBC TV show was making an appeal for help in locating the family of the unknown man.

"If I hadn't had that glimpse, this wouldn't have all happened," Renehan said.

John Renehan recognized his father but did not call the BBC until he saw his father on another episode of the show the following night.

"I think they thought I was some nutcase. I told them I thought I buried my father in 2003," he told ABCNews.com.

Renehan and his father were reunited after DNA tests confirmed Delaney's identity four weeks later.

So Who Was Cremated?

While the mystery of Delaney's disappearance was solved, one question remains unanswered: who was the man identified as Delaney, and later cremated, in 2003?

The Manchester Coroner's office, which was responsible with identifying the body, declined to answer any questions out of concern for "the feelings of any relatives involved," according to a statement from Manchester City Coroner Nigel Meadows.

Meadows' statement said an investigation would be carried out and the coroner's office is planning a fresh inquest.

A spokesperson from Manchester Police told ABCNews.com that the systems used by police to identify bodies at the time were far less sophisticated than those used now. "DNA evidence was not commonplace and only paper records were kept of missing persons," the police department said in a statement.

Renehan told ABCNews that he remembers police coming to his house to ask for a DNA sample from him, presumably to determine whether he was related to the body found outside the Manchester hospital.

However, a spokesperson from Manchester police told ABC News that there was no record of this in their files.

In a statement, the police department acknowledged that mistakes had been made and said a full investigation was underway to establish the identity of the body that was cremated in 2003.

Renehan says he feels "anger towards the big establishment that I trusted in," but also said he is not looking to pass blame.

"I am just happy to see my father. I will care for him for the rest of his life."

Rehabilitation and Family Time

Since being reunited last spring, Renehan has been working to rehabilitate his father.

"Just listening to him, helping him to remember and show him there can be some happiness in his life," Renehan said.

He introduced Delaney to his 11-year-old granddaughter, and the two have been spending time together.

"She's a very caring person like me. And she's showing that to her granddad," he said.