Thursday, December 22, 2005

Getting A Leg Up On The Competition

TV host Cooke's body plundered by ghouls


The ghoulish body parts for sale ring stole the bones of "Masterpiece Theatre" host Alistair Cooke just before he was cremated, the Daily News has learned.
The celebrated broadcaster and actor died March 30, 2004, of lung cancer that spread to his bones.

The next day, without permission of any family members, body snatchers surgically carved out the 95-year-old's diseased bones.

The bones were sold for more than $7,000 to two tissue processing companies for eventual transplant procedures, sources told The News.

"I hope those guys burn in hell for what they did," said longtime Cooke family attorney David Grossberg.

The alleged leader of the body-snatching ring is Michael Mastromarino, whose operations are under investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Mastromarino ran Biomedical Tissue Services Ltd., a tremendously profitable tissue recovery business that sold body parts, including bone, skin and cardiac valves.

After processing, Cooke's bones could have been used for dental implants or numerous orthopedic procedures including dowels for damaged spines.

Cooke's remains were sold by Mastromarino to processing companies Regeneration Technologies Inc., of Alachua, Fla., and Tutogen Medical Inc., of Paterson, N.J.

A spokesman for Tutogen did not return a telephone call. A spokesman for Regeneration Technologies had no comment.

But Cooke's daughter, Susan Kittredge, who learned what happened to her father only last week, told The News she was "shocked and saddened that following his death, parts of his body were illegally sold for transplant."

"That people in need of healing should have received his body parts, considering his age and the fact that he was ill when he died, is as appalling to the family as is that his remains were violated," she said.

The use of cancerous bone for transplant is a violation of Food and Drug Administration regulations and the use of body parts from the aged also is against transplant protocol.

But in paperwork given the two processing companies, Mastromarino allegedly changed Cooke's "cause of death" to heart attack and changed his age from 95 to 85, according to sources.

Mastromarino, along with his former partner Joseph Nicelli, an embalmer, are being probed for allegedly forging hundreds of such records in their business, which ran from 2000 until October 2005, when The News first disclosed the details of the Brooklyn probe.

Mastromarino routinely paid funeral directors for each corpse provided to his company.

Cooke's corpse was picked up at his Fifth Ave. home by the New York Mortuary Services Inc., a private funeral home at 2242 First Ave. Kittredge said she got what she believed to be her father's ashes two days later.

Timothy O'Brien, head of New York Mortuary Services did not return calls. His attorney had no comment.
How many "Masterpiece Theatre" jokes can we make here? "RUMPole of the Bailey"? "EYE, Claudius"? "Elizabeth ARM"?