Grieving mother secures grave beside teenage son after anonymous donation

PUBLISHED: 10:06 20 December 2012

Ellise Owen with her son Warren

Ellise Owen with her son Warren


A grieving mother whose plea to reserve the grave next to her teenage son was rejected by councillors has given heartfelt thanks to an anonymous woman who donated her own plot.

The grave of Warren Owen at Dereham cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt The grave of Warren Owen at Dereham cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

Warren Owen, an 18-year old serviceman at RAF Honington, popular Dereham air cadet and motorcycle enthusiast, died after his bike came off the A1075 near Griston in May, and was buried at Dereham Cemetery.

His mother Ellise asked the town council to let her buy the neighbouring plot so she could be certain of lying next to him after her own death, but her request was turned down because of a two-year rule against reserving graves to prevent the cemetery running out of space.

More than 1,500 people signed an online petition urging the council to change its mind, but councillors last week turned down Mrs Owen’s appeal.

However, she was then told an unnamed Dereham mother had offered to give her own plot to Mrs Owen, and the agreement was signed on Tuesday.

Mrs Owen said: “My faith in humanity has been massively restored by another mother in Dereham. I can only, from the bottom of my heart, express my gratitude to her for doing this.

“I’m incredibly grateful to her but at the same time I am incredibly disappointed in the town council for their lack of empathy and their lack of respect for Warren.

“It’s just a blessing for us that this anonymous person came forward and said you can have mine because it’s just been six months of constant unnecessary stress.”

Mrs Owen, who had earlier been visiting the cemetery every day to check if the grave next to Warren had been taken, said she had not returned to her job as a PE teacher at Watton Junior School because of the anxiety.

She and her husband John said they had been overwhelmed by support from the public, and also received the backing of Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman.

Mr Freeman said: “Whilst I understand the pressure on the town council to manage scarce cemetery resources appropriately, I think everyone would expect and understand that at a time when our armed forces are actively serving in Afghanistan it ought to be possible to be flexible and allow a couple who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be given the right to rest in peace.”

In a statement, Dereham Town Council said: “The town council felt unable to justify an exception to its policy of not selling exclusive rights for the Owen family. However, a member of the public has come forward and offered their exclusive rights back to the council on the express condition that it be transferred to the Owen family in a position alongside Warren.

“The council felt it was able to facilitate this exchange because it would be something it would have facilitated for other people, if requested, and would facilitate again in the future.

“In coming to its decision the council felt it had a duty to be fair to those people who had requests for exclusive rights turned down in the past, and those currently on the waiting list to purchase exclusive rights.”

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