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UK News

Church of England apologise to family after burial mix-up

by Alex Collett

A family who spent 17 years visiting the wrong grave after a burial mix-up, have received an apology from the Church of England.

MPs in the House of Commons, heard the Bell family from Country Durham suffered a "heart-breaking" eight-week delay to bury their mother, Hilda Bell, alongside her husband, Thomas Bell, after it was revealed someone else was actually in the grave they believed was Mr Bell's. 

When Mrs Bell died in July 2022 they had to make a space next to Mr Bell's grave so she could be buried there, that's when the Undertaker saw that Mr Bell's coffin was not his

It emerged Mr Bell had been buried elsewhere in the graveyard at Holy Trinity Church, Wingate, County Durham.

After Mr Bell's coffin was located Mrs Bell was able to be buried alongside him.

An inquiry into the matter is due to begin next month.

MP Andrew Selous, the Church's representative in the House of Commons, said a new best-practice guide for all parishes would start next month. 

The Conservative MP for South West Bedforshire told the House of Commons: "This has been a deeply troubling time for the Bell family and I'd like to pass on my heartfelt apologies for what has happened."

Grahame Morris, Easington MP, has called for reforms in improving burial records, including keeping digital copies, developing a new process for marking plots after burials and introducing rules about how plots in churchyards were organised.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Labour MP said: "Can I place on record my thanks to Mr Selous for his assistance with this matter during the recess.

"I can report to the House that Thomas Bell's coffin has been located and his late wife Hilda was buried with him after a heart-breaking eight-week delay, but appallingly for 17 years the family - who are my constituents living in Easington - unknowingly attended the wrong grave."

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