Woman told she cannot move husband’s grave from Forncett St Peter to Northern Ireland

PUBLISHED: 09:07 16 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:59 16 January 2014

Woman denied access to move grave. Stock image,

Woman denied access to move grave. Stock image,


A Church of England judge has ruled against a widow’s plea for her late husband’s remains to be removed from a south Norfolk graveyard and taken to Northern Ireland to be re-buried closer to her new home.

Joan Burns sought to have the remains of Stewart Andrew Burns, who was buried in June 2009 in the St Peter’s churchyard at Forncett St Peter, exhumed and moved to the churchyard of St Patrick and St Bridget in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

Ruth Arlow, chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich and a judge of the Church’s Consistory Court, ruled, however, that a last resting place must really be that and said that the remains could not be moved.

In her judgment she said that, under church law, the permanent burial of a body or cremated remains “should be seen as a symbol of our entrusting the person to God for resurrection”.

“I know that Mrs Burns and her daughter will be disappointed by this decision, but I am unable to find a proper justification for this exhumation,” she added.

She said that Mrs Burns had moved with her daughter to Co Antrim to be closer to her family, and that there had to be “special reasons” to justify an exception being made to “the principle of permanence”.

She held that such circumstances did not exist in this case.

Chancellor Arlow added: “I know that Mrs Burns has been prescribed anti-depressant medication as a result of the stress and distress 
she has been experiencing given her present circumstances but I cannot see that this amounts to a ‘serious psychiatric or psychological problem where medical evidence demonstrates a link between that medical condition and the question of location of the grave.”

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