GRIEVING families might have been visiting the wrong grave of their loved one for decades because of serious errors, Northumberland County Council has said.
The council said around 30 families are thought to be affected by a string of inaccuracies in burial records dating back ``a significant number of years“.
It means some gravestones could have been erected on the wrong burial plot and that unregistered burials have taken place at North Road and Tweedmouth cemeteries in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The council said it discovered the errors immediately after taking over management of the two cemeteries from Berwick Borough Council in 2009, when it became a unitary authority. It commissioned an independent investigation into the historical records and two members of staff were suspended, and recently dismissed for gross misconduct.
A council spokesman said around 30 families are thought to be affected by one of four types of errors. These are that the burial took place at the wrong plot, a memorial was erected at the wrong grave, the deeds have been issued incorrectly or that an unregistered burial has taken place.
The spokesman added: ``For sensitive reasons we do not want to say exactly how far back these inaccuracies date, but it is a significant number of years, decades.”
Headstones and memorials are often erected months after a burial, when distressed families may not realise that it is being erected on the wrong plot. Council staff are now beginning to contact families thought to be affected by the errors.
Roger Styring, deputy leader of the council, said: ``Our detailed investigations have found some problems with historical records at the cemeteries which are causing us considerable concern. We understand that this could be extremely upsetting for people affected by this and we’re sorry for the distress caused.
``We are making a commitment to all of the families involved that we will deal with these issues in an extremely sensitive manner. We are putting support in place to ensure that anyone affected has full knowledge and any support and guidance that they need during the work.”
The council said it is also reviewing all procedures at the cemetery. A dedicated hotline for families who have concerns has opened. The number is 08444 632 330 or 0203 417 02 70 for anyone outside the UK.