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Ashes to Ashes - would you choose a direct cremation like David Bowie?

David Bowie direct cremation

On the anniversary of David Bowie's death, we look at why so many Britons have chosen to opt for direct cremation like he did and whether the 'disposal companies' that have popped up in recent years are as ethical and moral as they appear

Think back to January 2016, it was a pre-Covid era and life was pretty different. David Bowie died at his Lafayette Street home in New York, having suffered from liver cancer for 18 months, on 10 January. He was reportedly 'secretly cremated' without any of his friends or family present, as he did not wish to have a funeral.

This news sparked a surge in people looking at direct cremation, which is a lower cost, no frills alternative to a typical funeral service. There are no family or mourners present and prices start from £1,000. With the cost of dying on the rise, for those not wanting a fuss or looking for a cheaper option the direct cremation option is appealing.

Inevitably, this also means that a lot of disposal service companies were set up in order to make money and take away any personal touches. You have Simplicity cremations, the direct cremation arm of funeral giant, Dignity Funerals and also Pure Cremation who launched at the end of 2015.

Tom Owen and Son offer a direct funeral for £1,500 (price as at 31 December 2021). You can see what is involved here. We offer this service as we respect that not everyone will wish to have a full funeral service.

  • You will still receive the same high level of care and respect that you would expect from our highly experienced team.
  • Tom Owen and Son will never leave the person that has died within the hospital mortuary for more than 48hrs from being notified by the bereavement team that they are ready for collection.
  • You will only ever be cremated within a local crematorium.
  • You will be notified of the time and date of the service and be allowed to stand outside the crematorium if you wish.
  • The ashes will be collected by us within 3 days of the service and looked after by us until you are ready to collect.

We urge you to do your research into these disposal companies, as not everything is as it appears. We are hearing some awful stories from families and their experiences.

Simplicity offer a direct cremation for £995 however the big differences here are that you are likely to be left in a hospital mortuary for up to 4 weeks, until there is enough demand for them to send transport to collect you. In order to be collected by Simplicity you have to pay extra. You will be taken to a crematorium miles away from your home, you won't be advised of the date of the service and your ashes won't be returned to you unless you pay an additional £75.

Pure Cremation offer a direct cremation for £1,195 however if you don't die in hospital, there will be an additional £250 charge to collect you and take you into their care. That suggests again that hospital mortuaries are used for storage facilities, for a period of time.

This recent Wales Online article highlights a families experience of using Simplicity cremation.