Page last updated at 15:58 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Corpse reburied after 700 years

The coffin being carried from the church to the graveyard
The teenage girl was affectionately named Holly by church officials

More than 200 people have attended the funeral and burial in north Kent of an unknown teenage girl who was decapitated about 700 years ago.

Her remains were found by an archaeologist on unconsecrated ground next to Hoo St Werburgh Parish Church, near Rochester.

Her head had been placed by her side, suggesting she may have committed suicide or been executed for a crime.

Her body has now been reburied in the church's main graveyard.

The girl was affectionately named Holly by church officials because her remains were found beside a holly tree used over many years to decorate the church at Christmas.

'Horrific end'

Speaking at Saturday's public funeral service, the Reverend Andy Harding, vicar of Hoo, said: "Whoever this young girl is, whatever she had done, innocent or guilty, she and everyone deserves a dignified and respectable funeral.

"If she had faced a trial then her death was the human penalty and she has paid in full.

"If she took her own life then today's culture tells us that she deserves pity and understanding, not damnation and brutality."

He added: "Holly had an horrific end and the treatment of her body was brutal."

Removing the young girl's head had been an "extra punishment meant to last an eternity".

Mr Harding said that if she had come from the area, then she had now completed her journey and been given the proper burial denied to her several hundred years ago.

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