A GRIEVING widower claims his family were left without an explanation after discovering his wife would not be buried in the plot he purchased for her.
Les Preston from Leamington chose a plot for his late wife Jean in Leamington Cemetery that was close to the curbside and easily accessible.
He discussed the plot he wanted with a representative from John Taylor funeral directors – part of the Co-operative Funeral Care – and his plot was later confirmed.
The 91-year-old said he then went to visit the cemetery two days before his wife’s funeral only to find out the grave that had been dug for his wife was not in the place he chose.
He told The Observer: “They told me that I couldn’t have the one that had been agreed because the deputy cemetery manager needed access for her digging machine.
“I was told that I could take it or leave it.”
Mike Preston, Les’ son, was on the phone with his father when the discussion took place.
He said: “I phoned my father’s mobile and overheard part of this conversation, including the excuse given and the appalling way she was addressing a grief-stricken elderly gentleman, who had just found out the wrong grave had been dug.
“My father was then left to drive home to an empty house, in the knowledge that his carefully made plans had been arbitrarily overturned and the emotional turmoil that he was in.
“I have serious concerns about what would have happened to him had he discovered that the wrong grave had been dug at the time of actual burial. A heart attack? A stroke? Or at the very least complete physical collapse.”
Les said the reason he chose the specific plot was because he has limited mobility. Having a curbside plot meant he could park adjacent to the grave, get out of the car and use his mobility frame to walk around the grave in its entirety.
Les and his son have been in dispute with Co-operative Funeral Care for four months.
An internal investigation concluded there was a misunderstanding when Les chose the plot, and the plot he wanted was actually reserved, therefore a subsequent plot was chosen.
But the family dispute this.
Mike said: “There was categorically never any discussion of any other plot other than the one chosen. My father’s cousin and her husband were there when my father chose the plot and there was no dispute that my mother would be buried in the plot he chose.
“My father is extremely upset – four months later he still has no closure.
“It has left a very bitter aftertaste for our family, as what was supposed to be a dignified farewell to my mother, has turned into a comedy of errors, which none of us finds in the least bit funny.”
A spokesperson from Warwick District Council (WDC), which cares for the cemetery, said: “Warwick District Council is deeply saddened to learn of the distress caused to the family by this incident and will be liaising with Co-op Funeral Care as they undergo their investigation.”
A spokesperson for Co-op Funeralcare, said: “We’re committed to giving the best possible care and service at a time of devastating loss and understand Mr Preston’s disappointment at learning his desired burial plot had already been reserved for another family.
“Availability of burial plots is out of our control and our colleagues worked closely with the cemetery and Mr Preston in advance of his wife’s funeral to find the next appropriate plot.”