Council blunder leaves funeral party ‘traumatised’

A BEREAVED family were left “traumatised” after attending an elderly relative’s funeral only to discover at the cemetery that the council had not dug a grave.

Angela Sibley, of Stevenage, lost her mother, Anne Foley, who lived in Glebe Road, Letchworth GC, on Christmas Day and had to delay the service because of the cold snap and council absences over the festive period.

The 74-year-old’s funeral was arranged for last Thursday but when the procession arrived at Wilbury Hills Cemetery it was discovered that North Herts District Council had not opened Mrs Foley’s husband’s grave, who died five years prior.

Mrs Sibley contacted The Comet on Friday morning and said: “When we got there we found out that they hadn’t opened my dad’s grave.

“Imagine how we feel, we had to have the wake before the funeral.

“I’m traumatised. I can’t explain it. We just wanted to pay our last respects and I can’t believe we have to go through it again.”

Mrs Sibley says she thought that it was a sick joke before it became clear there had been a mistake.

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Mourners went from the cemetery to the wake, despite the burial not taking place, and the body was returned to the funeral home.

Family had travelled from as far a field as Ireland to attend the funeral, which was pushed back one day, and some mourners could not attend last Friday’s service.

The 51-year-old said that the rearranged burial went ahead but said there were 200 people in St Hugh’s Church, in Letchworth GC, on Thursday and between 40-60 people at the graveside on Friday.

“You can’t explain to people the trauma that you go through,” she said.

EH Crouch, the funeral home who organised the service say the incident was “extremely unfortunate” and the firm’s operational manager said he has not dealt with anything like this in his 24 years in the business.

James Gallagher said: “It’s an unfortunate error. From what I can gather it was an administrative error and the council has admitted responsibility and has apologised to the family.

“From our point of view it’s extremely unfortunate that this has happened. We have a very good relationship with the council and I think an administrative error has occurred.

“I personally haven’t been involved with this before. I think it’s extremely rare.”

Councillor Peter Burt, portfolio holder for environment, said: “Unfortunately, when the booking for the burial of Anne Foley was taken, due to an error the instructions weren’t passed on, resulting in the grave not being prepared at the correct time.

“NHDC takes full responsibility for the error and we would like to send our sincere and unreserved apologies to Angela Sibley and her family for the distress this will have caused.

“We would like to reassure residents that an error of this nature is an extremely rare occurrence and we will be reviewing our procedures to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.

“We would like to send our deepest sympathies to the family for their loss.”

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