Two-month-old baby among more than 400 'pauper's funerals' in Norfolk

Sergiusz Meges, whose body was found in a Norwich underpass. Pic: Norfolk Constabulary.

Sergiusz Meges, whose body was found in a Norwich underpass, was among more than 400 people given so-called pauper's funerals in Norfolk since 2015. - Credit: Submitted

A two-month-old baby and a homeless man whose death triggered a murder investigation are among more than 400 people whose funerals have been paid for by Norfolk councils – because nobody else was able to cover the costs.

National assistance funerals, also known as 'pauper's funerals', take place when a person without sufficient money to pay for a service dies and when, after investigations, there is nobody else in a position to make arrangements for their body to be cremated or buried.

Councils have a statutory duty to provide public health funerals in that case and authorities in Norfolk have provided 439 such services since 2015.

Of those, 99-year-old Myrtle Byrne was the oldest person for whom a service was provided - arranged by Broadland District Council.

The youngest was a baby of just two months. Norwich City Council arranged for her burial in July.

Providing funerals cost councils almost £530,000 initially, although about half of that was subsequently recouped from the estate of the deceased.

Great Yarmouth provided the most assisted funerals since 2015, with 209 in that period, including 22 this year and 30 last year. The initial cost was about £260,000.

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A council spokesperson said: "The council always seeks to follow the deceased person’s wishes, where known, including their religious wishes, in relation to whether they are buried or cremated.

"If there is an estate, the council seeks to recover the full cost to the public of the funeral.

"In any given financial year, the council usually recovers about half of the costs it spends."

Norwich City Council spent just over £31,000 on 95 funerals since 2015, with 15 in each of the past two years.

Posters appealing for witnesses to come forward with any information about the death of Sergiusz Meg

Police appealed for witnesses after the death of Sergiusz Meges. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

One of them over the period was homeless man Sergiusz Meges, whose body was found in the St Stephens Street underpass in June 2015.

His death was initially treated as unexplained. But forensic enquiries revealed fatal injuries.

A murder investigation was launched and two men arrested. But police released the men without further action.

Since 2015 there have been 43 publicly-funded funerals in South Norfolk, 20 in Breckland, 48 in Broadland, 63 in West Norfolk and 27 in North Norfolk.

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