Funeral firm apologises after wrong man buried

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

The graveside service went ahead at Frankby cemetery in Wirral, Merseyside, despite the vicar pointing out it was the wrong coffin.

The body was later illegally exhumed and returned to the funeral home, while the correct body was taken to the graveyard and buried only after the family had left.

It is understood the sexton at Frankby - who manages the affairs of the graveyard - has been suspended by Wirral Borough Council.

The Anglican vicar who presided over the burial, the Rev Andrew Mannings, raised concerns after spotting the coffin was Roman Catholic.

Closer inspection found the name and date of birth on the coffin plate were also incorrect.

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

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chester said: "Rev Mannings noticed that the coffin brought to the funeral was not the usual type for the burial of an Anglican as it featured a crucifix.

"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.

"The funeral directors' representative insisted that the man buried at Frankby Cemetery was the right man.

"However, our vicar was very shocked to be told by the funeral director a few days later that, in fact, a mistake had been made, and the wrong body had been brought to the funeral and buried - despite our vicar raising concerns.

"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."

Co-operative Funeralcare today described the incident, on 12 December, as an "unfortunate error".

A spokeswoman said: "Regrettably we can confirm that, as a result of an unfortunate error, the wrong deceased was taken for burial.

"This was noticed at the graveside.

"The deceased was immediately returned to the funeral home after the mourners had left the graveside.

"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 - one family later on the same day and the other the following morning - and have provided them with complete details of the incident and believe we have amicably settled the matter.

"We are currently carrying out an extensive investigation as to how this regrettable error occurred.

"We are aware of the legal regulations regarding burials and exhumation, however, at the time of the incident, all parties acted in good faith and in the best interests of both families concerned.

"The necessary steps have been taken to apply for an exhumation order, on a retrospective basis."

An exhumation order is needed if it is subsequently found that a mistake has been made. The unlawful removal of a body from its grave can carry a fine of up to £200.

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.

"We are working with the funeral directors to obtain a retrospective exhumation certificate from the Home Office."

He added that the matter was not being referred to police.