Council apologises after remains lie in wrong grave for six years

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The error was only discovered when the family of Eileen Burgess tried to bury her with her husband, James, at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery [pictured] in March.

However, the coffin of Frederick Towner, who died in 2013, was discovered next to Mr Burgess’s remains.

In order for the family to continue with Mrs Burgess’s burial, a third grave had to be dug until the mix up at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery could be sorted out.

To switch the remains to their rightful resting places, the Church of England’s Consistory Court had to approve the exhumation of both bodies.

John Gallagher, Chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester who also acts as judge of the Consistory Court, said in a report that both plots were ‘very close together’ and the mistake was ‘an innocent one’.

He said: “I have seen a plan of the relevant part of the cemetery, and it is clear that the two plots are very close to each other.

“Enquiries have been made by the cemetery authorities, but to no avail, in that the staff responsible for the cemetery at that time have left their employment, and not surprisingly, there are no records which might show how, or why, the mistake occurred.”

He continued: “In my judgment, a mistake has occurred here. As I have indicated, the precise circumstances of the original mistake may never be known, but I am wholly satisfied that it was an innocent one.

“In these very particular and unusual, not to say distressing, circumstances, I am wholly satisfied that this is a case where I can and should take an exceptional course.”

He ordered the exhumation of Mr Towner and Mrs Burgess, who were both reinterred into their rightful graves as families of both of the deceased gathered at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery earlier this month. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has since apologised to the families concerned.

A spokeswoman said: “We apologised to the families for this very distressing situation and we remain very sorry for what had occurred.

“We have carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances and have reviewed our processes to prevent this mistake occurring again in the future.”

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