Shock over blunders in burial records

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GRIEVING families might have been visiting the wrong grave of their loved one for decades because of serious errors, a council said yesterday.

Northumberland County Council said around 30 families are thought to be affected by a string of inaccuracies in burial records dating back “a significant number of years”.

It means some gravestones could have been erected on the wrong burial plot and that unregistered burials have taken place at North Road and Tweedmouth cemeteries in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The council said it discovered the errors immediately after taking over management of the two cemeteries from Berwick Borough Council in 2009, when it became a unitary authority.

It commissioned an independent investigation into the historical records and two members 
of staff were suspended, and recently dismissed for gross misconduct.

A council spokesman said around 30 families are thought to be affected by one of four errors – that burials took place at the wrong plot, a memorial was erected at the wrong grave, the deeds had been issued incorrectly or that an unregistered burial had taken place.

Roger Styring, deputy leader of the council, said: “We understand that this could be extremely upsetting for people affected by this and we’re sorry for the distress caused.”

“We are making a commitment to all of the families involved that we will deal with these issues in an extremely sensitive manner.

“We are putting support in place to ensure that anyone affected has full knowledge and any support and guidance that they need during the work.

“We understand that this may cause upset and uncertainty for people with friends or relatives buried there and we are deeply sympathetic towards them during this difficult time.

“We would like to reassure people that we are working with the greatest of care, respect and sensitivity, and our sympathies are with anyone who is involved.”