Dad finally found at Wingate church after grave blunder

A grieving Durham family have told of their relief at the news they can finally lay their mum to rest after their dad’s grave was found.

Last month the Bell family discovered that someone else had been buried in their dad’s grave which they had been visiting for the last 17 years.

They only discovered the blunder after the death of their mum Hilda, who wished to be buried alongside her husband Thomas, but when gravediggers went to prepare the grave his body was nowhere to be seen.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE – Durham family spent 17 years visiting wrong grave due to blunder

Now seven weeks after Hilda’s death, and five weeks since the discovery of the Thomas’ resting place has finally been found just 2 mistresses from where he was believed to be buried after ELEVEN graves were dug up searching for him.

To the left wood covers the grave where Thomas Bell has been buried for the last 17 years. Just two meters to the right is where the family believed he was buried. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

Tom Bell, 58, a factory worker from Easington, told The Northern Echo: “We can finally lay our mum to rest with her husband and we can start properly grieving.

“We’ve been stuck in limbo for weeks, living day to day, hoping every phone call was the one to say he had been found.

“When the vicar rang us I couldn’t believe it. I asked every twice if they were sure it was definitely him.”

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Gravediggers acting on behalf of the Diocese of Durham have dug up 11 graves searching from Thomas’ body but have only now dug two meters to the side where he has been found.

The Northern Echo: The Holy Trinity Church graveyard in Wingate.  Picture: SIMON MCCABEThe Holy Trinity Church graveyard in Wingate. Picture: SIMON MCCABE

Tom and his sisters Denise, 59, and Debra, 53, sadly lost Hilda on June 16 aged 79, from COPD.

Just two days before Hilda was due to be buried alongside her doting husband at Holy Trinity Church, Wingate, County Durham, the family were shocked to receive a phone call to say someone else was buried in their dad’s grave.

Last month The Northern Echo revealed that the family of a man who had been buried near to where Thomas Bell’s headstone had stood wrongly for 17 years had also been told of the distressing mix-up.

A funeral was held on July 1 but Hilda had to be returned to a funeral home where she has been lying ever since.

The family plan to bury their mum and reunite their parents during a graveside service next week.

The Northern Echo: Hilda and Thomas Bell can finally be laid to rest together, as per her wishes.Hilda and Thomas Bell can finally be laid to rest together, as per her wishes.

Speckmans Funeral Directors who have been supporting the family have offered to carry out the service with flowers and hearse provided for free.

Tom added: “Losing our candle was bad enough then to be told the grave of our dad we have spent the last 17 years visiting is not his is unbearable.

“We need answers as to how this happened in the first place.”

It is still not clear how the shocking blunder occurred, or how many bodies have been buried in the wrong place at the Wingate graveyard.

The Diocese of Durham has now launched an investigation into how the distressing mix-up occurred.

Read more: Grahame Morris MP calls for action over Durham grave blunder

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham told The Northern Echo: “We are thankful that the family of Mr and Mrs Bell will now be able to lay their mother to rest in the same grave as their father, and mourn in peace.

The Northern Echo: Tom Bell by his father's grave.  Picture: CHRIS BOOTHTom Bell by his father’s grave. Picture: CHRIS BOOTH

“We will now seek to investigate why a distressing error about the location of headstones was made 17 years ago and ensure that any lessons to be learned are identified and acted upon.

“This is a complex situation, and obviously distressing for all involved. The issue here concerns two memorials being installed in inaccurate positions after burials had taken place.

”The family will not be expected to pay additional fees, and the church and the diocese will continue to offer them support through this very difficult situation.”

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