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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 December, 2003, 14:07 GMT
Apology after coffin mix-up
Coffin
The wrong coffin was taken to a funeral
A firm of undertakers who took the wrong coffin to a funeral and then tried to cover up their mistake have apologised to two grieving families.

Workers at the Co-operative Funeral Service in Cheltenham took the same coffin to the correct funeral to be blessed for cremation a second time.

But their error meant one body was cremated without having been present at a service attended by relatives, or being blessed.

News of the error, which took place at Cheltenham Crematorium in August, was kept from the two families involved until a local newspaper was tipped-off about it.

This is clearly a very serious mistake... our funeral manager's first concern was to avoid distress to the family so she took the decision not to inform them of the mistake.
Adrian Barradell
Funeral directors' spokesman
Adrian Barradell, a spokesman for the Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op Funeral Service, said an internal investigation was under way into how the mix-up happened.

He said the company representatives would be meeting the families on Tuesday to inform them of the error.

Mr Barradell said: "This is clearly a very serious mistake. It is the case that at one service the wrong coffin was at the service despite our rigorous checking procedures.

"When this was discovered our funeral manager's first concern was to avoid distress to the family and she, therefore, took the decision not to inform the family of the mistake but to ensure that the right coffin was cremated."

Inquiry launched

The Co-op said it was not taking any action against individual employees but was reviewing the procedures for transporting coffins and checking.

A spokeswoman for Cheltenham Borough Council, which runs the crematorium, said the council would conduct an inquiry into the incident.

"We are very sorry and extremely concerned to hear about this," she said.

"We would like to reassure the families involved that we are making our own investigations to find out exactly what happened, and will be speaking to the funeral director from the Co-op Funeral Service who was involved."





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