Husband and wife were laid to rest together after 17 years in the wrong grave

Husband and wife were laid to rest together after 17 years in the wrong grave

Thomas and Hilda Bell together, and their son Tom at the grave

The Diocese of Durham has launched an investigation into the error (Image: North News & Pictures Ltd)

The body of a father who was buried in the wrong grave has been laid to rest in the right place after almost two decades.

Thomas Bell was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church in Wingate, County Durham, in 2005.

For 17 years, the family visited the wrong resting place, which was only two meters away from where he was supposed to be buried.

It was not until his wife Hilda Bell died in June that relatives realized their loved ones were not where they had thought.

His son Tom, 58, and sisters Denise, 59, and Debra, 53, planned to lay her to rest next to Thomas after a funeral service on July 1.

Yet just days before the funeral it was discovered that someone else had been buried in his grave and his coffin was nowhere to be found.

Over the next six weeks, eight graves were excavated in the hope of finding the remains of Thomas, causing more pain for the grieving family.

Son Tom at his parents' grave

Tom Bell had been visiting the wrong grave for nearly two decades (Image: North News & Pictures Ltd)

Thomas and Hilda Bell together

Hilda and Thomas Bell have been laid to rest together (Image: North News & Pictures Ltd)

Almost two months after Hilda’s death, she has been buried in the plot her husband has laid all these years after a funeral on Friday.

“We couldn’t rest until they were together and reunited after all this time,” Tom said.

“We had lived our lives daily hoping that every phone call was the one saying he had been found.

“When they told me they had found him, I had to ask them twice if they were sure it was definitely him.

“Now we can finally begin to mourn our mother, knowing that they are laid to rest together.”

The plot where the family believed their father was buried

The plot where the family believed their father was buried (Image: North News & Pictures Ltd)

It is not yet clear how the accident happened – or how many, if any, more bodies have been buried in the wrong place at Wingate Cemetery.

The Diocese of Durham, which is responsible for burials at the cemetery, has launched a “scholarship” inquiry.

A spokesperson said: “We are grateful that the family of Mr and Mrs Bell can now lay their mother to rest in the same grave as their father, and mourn in peace.

“We will now seek to investigate why a disturbing mistake about the placement of headstones was made 17 years ago, and ensure that any lessons that can be learned are identified and acted upon.”

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