Grave shock for relatives
FAMILIES have been laying flowers at the headstones of loved-ones only to find out their relatives ashes were never buried there. Margaret Dench, aged 57, lost her mother to terminal bowel and liver cancer in November 2005.
FAMILIES have been laying flowers at the headstones of loved-ones only to find out their relatives' ashes were never buried there.
Margaret Dench, aged 57, lost her mother to terminal bowel and liver cancer in November 2005. After a cremation at Weston Crematorium, off Ebdon Road, a few days later, she assumed her mother's ashes were laid in the plot.
But in November this year Margaret received a letter from North Somerset Council saying they still had the ashes and asked her if she would like to make an appointment to intern them.
Margaret's mum, Gladys Payne, was buried almost two years after her death on November 7.
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But to add insult to injury, just last month Margaret, of Elmsleigh Road, received a letter from the council which said "sorry for your recent loss", asking her to fill in a questionnaire about the service.
The mother-of-two, who lived with her mum and cared for her before she died, said: "I have been laying flowers and going up to the headstone to talk to someone who isn't there.
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"Death is a distressing time and you just expect people to be competent and get things done.
"I wish I had never bought the damn plot. I should have scattered them somewhere because now the headstone doesn't mean what it should do.
"They haven't told me where the ashes have been these past two years, probably in a cupboard. My mum would much rather have the pretty views from her plot rather than staring at a wall or a shelf."
"When I phoned the council last week they didn't even try to grovel or apologise.
"They didn't even include a questionnaire in the envelope. I wish they had because I know exactly where I would put it."
A spokesman for the council said: "We allow families time to grieve and to contact us regarding the interment when they are ready.
"Following the funeral of Mrs Payne, her ashes were kept at the crematorium and the family was asked whether they wanted to be present at the interment. The information we received indicated Mrs Dench did want to be present but when we did not hear anything further, we wrote to her in November.
"We can understand Mrs Dench's upset and concern but genuinely acted on the information passed to us."
Fred Aspden also believed his wife's ashes had been buried after her death in August 2006, but on November 6, 2007 he received a letter from the council asking him to organise a date for her internment.
The 81-year-old, who lives in Parklands Avenue, Worle, said: "I have been visiting the graveside regularly and assumed the ashes were already there. When they wrote and told me they only usually keep them for three months I was shocked. I just thought, what are they playing at?"
After Fred got in touch with the council, his wife Barbara Aspden, who died aged 78, finally had her ashes buried on November 13, more than a year after her death.
A spokesman for the council said: "In regards to Barbara Aspden's ashes, we allowed the family time to grieve and to let them contact us regarding interment when they were ready.
"We will be contacting funeral directors in the area to ensure the procedures are clearly communicated to families."
In both cases, the families received a receipt of a Notice of Interment when they purchased the plots and the form said 'appointment to be arranged'. But despite the council having a policy of only storing ashes for three months, the families were not contacted until November 2007.