Mistress defeats widow in row over grave plot

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A mistress who has been locked in a bitter fight with her dead lover's widow for four years yesterday won the right to be buried next to him. But the man's widow and children say they will apply to have his body exhumed.

A judge at Birmingham County Court ruled that Jean Cooper, 56, was the owner of the double plot at Robin Hood Cemetery, Solihull, where Kenny Dunn was buried after dying in her bed from a heart attack.

But after listening to the acrimonious wrangle between Mrs Cooper's family and the late self-employed roofing contractor's wife, Pat, 54, and children, Judge Alan Taylor urged them to find a compromise so they would not carry the grudge to their graves.

As a measure of his disquiet that such a case should reach the court and be paid for by the legal aid system, he ordered that the costs of up to £12,000 for both parties be paid for out of Mr Dunn's £65,000 estate.

However, the losers in the action, brought by the dead man's daughters, Debbie Doyle and Karen Dunn, on behalf of their mother, were unmoved.

Richard Doyle, Mrs Dunn's son-in-law, said: "The mistress may have won the battle but she has not won the war. We now intend to apply to the Home Office to have the body exhumed."

Ultimately the case revolved around a disputed conversation between both women's children at an undertaker's hours after Mr Dunn's death at the age of 56, but the seeds of the row had been sown when he met Mrs Cooper while working in Skegness in 1973. "We met and fell in love," Mrs Cooper said. "We started living like man and wife and for the first two years he was going home to Birmingham every two weeks.'' In 1975 Mrs Dunn discovered the relationship, confronted Mrs Cooper at her home in Lincolnshire,and Mr Dunn returned to the family home in Tyseley, Birmingham. Later that year, Mrs Cooper, who began using the name Dunn, moved to the Erdington area of Birmingham, and Mr Dunn began living a double life, splitting his time between the two women.

Mrs Cooper said that in 1984 Mr Dunn chose to move in with her after an ultimatum from his wife. Mrs Dunn's case was that he had split his time between them until his death in May 1991.

In the end, the judge chose to believe Mrs Cooper's version, and crucially, that her son Michael, while in the undertaker's, had selected a double plot for his mother, signed the papers on her behalf and paid the £2,421 for the funeral.