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Graveside mystery gets an answer

17 November 2017


Floral message: the grave of Karl Smith, at St Mary’s, Prestbury

Floral message: the grave of Karl Smith, at St Mary’s, Prestbury

A LONG-RUNNING church­yard mys­­tery has been partially solved.

For years, parishioners of St Mary’s, Prestbury, in Gloucester­shire, have been puzzled by fresh flowers and handwritten notes and poems left anonymously on the grave of Karl Smith, who drowned, aged 12, in 1947, during a Scout trip to south Wales.

Two years ago, Karl’s sister, Ann Kear, tried to find the person re­­sponsible, but failed. Now, however, a BBC docu­mentary, The Stranger at My Brother’s Grave, has discovered that the flowers are placed by Ronald Seymour-West­borough, who was a close friend of Karl.

Mrs Kear, who is 77, said that it was “brilliant” to have discovered the stranger’s iden­­tity. In the docu­mentary, she said: “I would like to think that Mum and Dad know what’s happened, and that he’s still being looked after.”

Mrs Kear and Mr Seymour-Westborough, who is 84, now make regular visits to the graveside to­­gether. Karl had been his closest friend in the Scouts, he said. It was he who had found Karl’s body in the sea. He has been visiting Karl’s grave since he was 18, but did not know that Karl had a sister, or that she was looking for him.

Part of the mystery lingers, how­ever, as he said that he did not pen the notes or poems.

The Team Rector in the North Cheltenham Team Ministry, which includes St Mary’s, the Revd Nick Bromfield, said: “It has been an ongoing mystery for quite some while, and it has exercised the best minds of the parish for years. It has been a recurring episode for a long, long time. . . It has been a very lovely, elegant outcome.”

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