Christopher Alder, 37, choked to death while handcuffed and lying on the floor of a police station in Hull, in the early hours of April 1 1998.
It now appears a Hull pensioner of Nigerian descent, Grace Kamara, was buried in his place in 2000.
She’s understood to have died from natural causes in 1999 but her burial was delayed and finally scheduled for Friday.
The mix-up was only discovered when her friends and family were recently granted permission to identify the body. But they discovered Mr Alder’s remains were in her place in the mortuary.
Today the two families met each other for the first time, thrown together in the most distressing of circumstances.
“To find ten years later that he’s still in the mortuary, I’m just totally appalled by how he’s been treated and how the families been treated,” Mr Alder’s sister, Janet, told Channel 4 News.
“Because the coroner released his body in 2000 he says his not responsible and responsibility lies with Hull City Council,” Janet Alder was told after a meeting with the coroner.
Police called in
The chief executive of Hull City Council, Nicola Yates, said the police were being brought in to begin a criminal investigation.
She said: “As chair of the multi-agency group dealing with the tragic circumstances around Grace Kamara and Christopher Alder, I have requested that the police undertake a criminal investigation into this extremely distressing case.
South Yorkshire police were asked to investigate because of Humberside police’s connection with the case.
A decade ago a coroner’s jury returned a verdict that Mr Alder was unlawfully killed and in 2002 five Humberside Police officers went on trial accused of manslaughter and misconduct in public office but they were cleared of all charges on the orders of the judge.
Chief Constable of Humberside police, Tim Hollis, said: “Whilst the role of the police is to provide investigative support to the respective authorities I am, naturally, mindful of the strong association of Humberside Police with Christopher Alder’s name and his sad death.
“It is, therefore, my decision to invite South Yorkshire Police to provide a team of officers to undertake any necessary investigation into the circumstances that have come to light.