Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Wrong body buried in coffin error

A funeral firm on Merseyside has apologised to two families after a mix-up led to the wrong man being buried.

The funeral went ahead at Frankby Cemetery, Wirral, even though the vicar pointed out it was the wrong coffin.

Co-Operative Funeralcare which made the mistake on 12 December, called the incident an "unfortunate error".

The body was later exhumed - apparently illegally - and the right body was buried only after the family had left. The local council is investigating.

Wirral Borough Council has suspended the sexton at Frankby, who manages the affairs of the cemetery, while the inquiry takes place.

The issue came to light after the Anglican vicar who led the burial, the Rev Andrew Mannings, raised concerns after realising the coffin was for a Roman Catholic because it featured a crucifix.

We apologised to both families at the earliest opportunity
A spokesman for Co-Operative Funeralcare

But Mr Mannings was assured it was the correct body and the burial continued.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chester said: "When he saw that the nameplate bore a name different to that of the man being buried and a different age too, the vicar immediately went to see the sexton and pointed out that something appeared to be seriously wrong.

"What followed was a discussion involving the representative of the funeral directors who absolutely insisted that the coffin contained the body of the right man - and that the deceased man was simply known by two names."

A few days later the vicar was told by the funeral directors' that the wrong body had in fact been buried

"The Rev Mannings has been in touch with the grieving family since to comfort them and has conducted a new funeral service by the graveside where the correct body has now been buried," added the diocese spokesman.

Illegal exhumation

The Co-operative funeral company has now launched an investigation to find out how the mistake was made.

"The correct deceased was subsequently interred and a private memorial service was offered to the family.

"We apologised to both families at the earliest opportunity."

The funeral directors said it had applied for a retrospective exhumation order - legally a body cannot be removed from the ground without one.

A spokesman for Wirral Council said: "A member of staff has been suspended pending an investigation into the events leading to an apparent illegal exhumation."

Unlawful removal of a body from its grave can carry a fine of up to 200.

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