Police carried out an exhumation at the grave of Sheila Gent, 58, at a churchyard in Fulmodestone, Norfolk, yesterday. Checks by Home Office pathologists confirmed that the body in the grave was not that of Mrs Gent.
Detectives said the body in Mrs Gent's grave was almost certainly that of Edith Kemp, 97, and should have been cremated.
Detective Inspector Steve Fernandes said police would now want to speak to undertaker David Turner, who arranged both funeral services in December 1996.
Both women, who lived in Thetford, died within days of each other and were laid out at Mr Turner's funeral parlour.
Police began inquiries earlier this year after a former member of staff at Mr Turner's funeral company alleged that there had been a mix-up.
She made the claim in court after being convicted of stealing from the company.
"We have been able to establish that the body buried at Fulmodestone is clearly not Mrs Gent," said Det Insp Fernandes, who is based at Thetford.
"There is strong evidence to show that the body is that of Mrs Kemp. We will be continuing our inquiries and then we will consult the Crown Prosecution Service to see whether any criminal acts have been committed."
Yesterday Mrs Gent's family solicitor, Ben Dures,said Mr Gent and his children were devastated by the the news of the mistake. "The trauma suffered by the family can be well imagined," he said.
He said it was now likely that the Gent family would launch legal action against Mr Turner.
Mr Turner was at a funeral yesterday and unavailable for comment.Reuse content