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Grave may be opened to retrieve jewellery, chancellor rules

13 January 2023

P L Chadwick/Creative Commons Lisense

The churchyard of St Michael & All Angels, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, in 2011

The churchyard of St Michael & All Angels, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, in 2011

THE Chancellor of the diocese of Worcester has directed that an exhumation can take place of remains interred in Stourport Town Cemetery, so that jewellery that was buried with the body may be removed, and the body reburied in the same grave.

The remains of Nigel George Jones were interred on 1 July 2022. Owing to an error by Co-op Funeralcare, the body was buried wearing jewellery that the family had specifically requested should be removed. The mistake was noticed shortly after the interment. The family now wished to open the grave, obtain the jewellery, and then close the grave up again. There was no plan to remove the remains of Nigel Jones, nor to disturb them any further than was essential for the purpose of obtaining the jewellery. The daughter of the deceased brought a petition seeking permission for the exhumation.

Chancellor Jacqueline Humphreys said that she was content that the circumstances of the petition fitted within the legal exceptions to the doctrine of permanence, such that it was lawful and appropriate to permit the exhumation.

The Parks and Cemetery Superintendent for Stourport Town Council was “unenthusiastic” about the proposed exhumation, but he did not directly oppose it. It was therefore appropriate, the Chancellor said, that the practical arrangements for the exhumation were undertaken, subject to any reasonable procedures that the superintendent wanted to put in place to protect public health and avoid distress to other members of the public.

It was also assumed that the body would be in a poor condition, and it was likely to be distressing to family members to observe the opening of the grave.

The faculty was granted permitting the exhumation to be carried out within six months of the grant of the faculty, subject to all reasonable conditions required by the Parks and Cemetery Superintendent.

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