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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 April, 2004, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Church 'sorry' for grave decision
Gravestones laid flat (generic)
Letters of apology were being sent to relatives of the dead
A senior clergyman has apologised after 40 gravestones in a Norfolk churchyard were laid flat because of safety fears.

Members of the parochial church council at St Nicholas Church, Dersingham, near King's Lynn, failed to inform relatives that graves were being disturbed.

The Venerable Martin Gray, Archdeacon of Lynn, said there had been a "breakdown of communication" following a church health and safety audit.

He apologised for any distress and said damage would be paid where appropriate.

Church officials made a decision to lay the gravestones flat following concerns they could topple over and cause injury.

Insurance purposes

Retired businessman Mike Brannon, 65, threatened to sue after the grave of his two-year-old son Guy, who died from cot death in 1983, was disturbed.

He said: "The first I heard about it was when a neighbour told me that Guy's headstone had been laid flat. At first I thought it was vandals.

Mr Brannon, of Dersingham, added: "I dispute that there was anything unsafe about the headstone. But they should have told us what they were doing".

Mr Gray said: "Letters of apology are being sent to all the families affected and, of course, I apologise for any distress that anyone has suffered.

"The PCC rightly carried out a health and safety audit for insurance purposes and to ensure that the churchyard was safe.

"But families should have been informed. There was a breakdown in communication."

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