Anger and upset at headstone removal

Margaret and Matthew Smith stood beside the grave - without its headstone. EMN-140912-123752001
Margaret and Matthew Smith stood beside the grave - without its headstone. EMN-140912-123752001

A Sleaford family are angry and upset over the treatment of their relative’s grave by the town council without their consent.

Leonard Francis Smith died aged 74 five years ago and was buried in Sleaford Cemetery, with a headstone erected.

Mr Smith’s son, Matthew, of Spring Gardens, explained that on Monday last week his sister travelled up from Devon to visit and the family went to the grave to lay flowers.

He said: “When we got there we noticed my Dad’s headstone had gone and there were muddy tracks across his grave from a mini-digger parked nearby.”

The town council’s cemetery workers, he would later learn, had needed access to dig a grave in the plot behind.

Mr Smith, 35, said: “We bought that plot and should have been informed to get permission to move my Dad’s headstone. We are disgusted about it. The digger had been stood on top of my Dad.”

The factory worker and his mum, Margaret, 66, of St Giles Avenue, called a meeting with acting town clerk Sheila Scholes and services supervisor Graham Sleaford over the matter the following day.

The family were presented with a copy of a letter which the council was due to send out informing them of the work and explaining the headstone would be replaced, that it had been incorrectly installed in the first place.

Mr Smith said: “They should know better. It is effectively private property and that headstone has stood for five years.”

Mrs Smith said the family are devastated and wondered how often this may have happened without relatives’ knowledge.

Mrs Scholes apologised to the family on behalf of the council having visited them on Tuesday.

She said: “A procedure will be set in place where no headstones will be removed without permission of the family.”

She said the stone had to be moved to avoid damage while the neighbouring grave was dug but it would be reinstated securely. She said the need to move headstones was more frequent than people may realise due to the need to open up shared plots.

Mrs Scholes added: “The council take the situation extremely seriously. It has brought to the council’s attention an omission to its policies and procedures and that is being addressed.”