A distraught family had to watch their beloved ‘Nan’ buried twice because of another blunder by the firm who manages graveyards in Northampton - rubbishing claims a near identical error it made was an “isolated incident.”
Last week the Chronicle & Echo reported how Enterprise - the company which carries out environmental services on behalf of Northampton Borough Council - dug the wrong grave before a funeral cortege arrived at Kingsthorpe Cemetery in May.
The response from the council was that this was an “isolated incident,” which was dealt with at the time.
But since the story was published another family has come forward to say they suffered the same blunder at the hands of Enterprise six months prior.
On November 11, 2015, the family arrived for a funeral at Towcester Road Cemetery and a well attended ceremony was held in the church there. But it was only when they returned to place flowers at the plot on November 15 they realised the elderly woman, who was meant to be buried with her late husband, was in fact interred in a plot five metres away from the one they had reserved.
It meant the family had to have the body exhumed and re-buried on December 3, a procedure which was incredibly distressing and required the approval of the Ministry of Justice.
It was traumatic. At the time we were grieving, we just wanted to move on but we couldn’t
A family member agreed to talk to the Chron about the ordeal this week.
She said: “On the day we got there for the funeral, everything was covered with a green material, it was hard to tell where the plot was but we were assured she was buried with Pap (granddad).
“We paid our respects to Nan and continued on to her wake.
“But when we went back on the Sunday we just thought ‘what the hell’? Pap’s grave is all the way over there.”
The family immediately complained to Enterprise, an arm of the Peterborough based company Amey.
The firm has since compensated them with £5,000, which the family in turn used to compensate funeral guests for having to take a second day off work.
But it meant the family had to go through the distressing procedure of having the body exhumed and re-buried.
On December 3, the family had to attend Towcester Road Cemetery again to hold a second funeral.
“We were heartbroken, it was just surreal,” the family member said.
“We had already done this less than a month before.
“It was traumatic. At the time we were grieving, we just wanted to move on but we couldn’t.”
The family have chosen to speak out now because they were shocked to see a similar blunder at Kingsthorpe Cemetery referred to as an “isolated incident.”
In a letter sent to them by Enterprise in 2015, the firm admitted responsibility for marking the grave incorrectly and vowed it would never happen again.
It said: “I can ensure that our policies and procedures are revisited to ensure that they are robust enough to guarantee that an incident of this nature never occurs again.”
But the family told the Chron: “We were assured that lessons were going to be learned.
“I am truly disgusted that this has not been the case.”
The initial Freedom of information request, which revealed Amey’s blunder in May, was put in by Northampton South MP David Mackintosh.
This new revelation has now further deepened the feud between Mr Mackintosh and the council he was previously a leader of.
He said: “Northampton Borough Council claimed that the case I raised with them last year was an isolated incident, but clearly this was not true and this type of incident is truly horrific for a family to face on top of a bereavement.”
“My concern is that this has affected even more families than we are aware of, that Northampton Borough Council are not in control of the situation, and have not been up front about it.
“I have written to the Justice Secretary to make her aware of the situation because exhuming graves is a very serious matter and I have asked for her assistance so that other families do not have to suffer in the same way.”
The council says it is aware of two exhumations as a result of errors made by the contractors, Amey.
Councillor Alan Bottwood, cabinet member for the environment, said: “This is a very serious issue. In the context of the thousands of burials carried out in Northampton every year, this is a small number but each case is of immense significance to the families involved and the errors are absolutely unacceptable.
“Each matter has been raised at the highest level with our contractors, Amey, and they have been asked to make immediate improvements to this service. The service is being closely monitored and will be kept under close review.
“Our contract with Amey lasts until June 2018 and we are currently looking at future options for the provision of waste and environmental services.”