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‘You only get one chance to say goodbye’ - Sisters traumatised as wrong grave is dug for their father

PUBLISHED: 07:23 30 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:53 30 October 2018

Attleborough cemetery
Picture: Nick Butcher

Attleborough cemetery Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

A family has been left ‘traumatised’ after their father’s burial plot was mixed up with the plot of another person, due to be buried the next week.

Attleborough cemetery
Picture: Nick ButcherAttleborough cemetery Picture: Nick Butcher

Debbie Lane and Coral de Souza had hoped for a dignified send off for their dad John Lane, with a graveside service in which Mr Lane would be laid to rest with his wife, who died in 2007.

But the sisters, as well as more than 60 guests, were appalled on arrival at Attleborough Cemetery, when they were told the wrong grave had been dug.

Miss Lane, 54, a mature student from Attleborough, was further upset when it was suggested she take the entourage to nearby pub The Griffin while the situation was sorted out, as her 79-year-old father ‘hated’ pubs.

When some time later the ceremony was performed, the CD player playing Miss Lane’s parent’s favourite song, A Groovy Kind of Love by The Mindbenders, ran out of batteries.

Attleborough cemetery
Picture: Nick ButcherAttleborough cemetery Picture: Nick Butcher

She said: “It was just a farce, you only get one chance to say goodbye. I didn’t hear a word from anyone the next day. There were a lot of older people there who were frozen from the waiting and didn’t come to the wake because of that.

“They seemed more concerned about saying it was someone else’s fault than getting it sorted. Dad was a big Dad’s Army fan, we had a reading from it at the service, but it was like an episode of it.”

The family of the person due to be buried in the mistaken plot have been informed of the error by the council.

A town council spokesman said: “Regrettably the burial plot for the funeral of the late Mr John Lane had mistakenly been swapped with a plot allocated for a funeral a few days later. The correct plot was quickly identified and prepared for the burial by the grounds team and the funeral was completed.

“Attleborough Town Council wishes to express their sincere regret and a full apology to the family and mourners for the distress caused. A full review of procedures is being undertaken in conjunction with Mr Andy Free and any necessary adjustments to the system will be made. Attleborough Town Council have offered to waive their fees and are in ongoing communication with the family.

“Attleborough Town Council takes responsibility for the misallocation of the plot and apologises to Mr Andy Free, Funeral Director.”

Mrs de Souza said: “It was and still is incredibly stressful and traumatic. Normally you think you did the best you could and start to move on. We can’t move on.”

Funeral director shocked by grave mix-up ‘atrocity’

Andy Free, of Andy Free Independent Family Funeral Director, said he had been the family’s funeral director on several occasions, and had been walking ahead of the cortege to a ‘very well planned funeral service’ when a colleague called to say the grave had been dug in the wrong place.

He said: “I was absolutely shocked to find this to be true. As the longest serving funeral director in this town I have never had to experience this sort of atrocity before.”

Mr Free said they book burials with the town council, which use records to determine the plot’s location, and that funeral directors are not allowed to use their own grave digger.

He added they attempted to make things comfortable for the mourners, but that the ‘damage was done’.

“When you are responsible for arranging a funeral for a family and something like this happens it is a sickening feeling for all involved,” he said. “Our thoughts and feelings are very much with the family at this very sad time.”

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