Husband and wife laid to rest together after he spent 17 years in wrong grave

Husband and wife laid to rest together after he spent 17 years in wrong grave

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

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

Thomas Bell was buried in the cemetery at Holy Trinity Church in Wingate, County Durham, in 2005.

For 17 years his family visited the wrong resting place which was just two metres away from where he was supposed to be buried.

It was only until his wife Hilda Bell passed away in June that relatives realised their loved one was not where they’d thought.

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

Yet just days before the burial it was discovered somebody 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 Thomas’ remains, adding more woes to the grieving family.

Husband and wife laid to rest together after he spent 17 years in wrong grave

Tom Bell had visited the wrong grave for almost two decades (Picture: North News & Pictures Ltd)

Husband and wife laid to rest together after he spent 17 years in wrong grave

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

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

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

‘We had been living our life day-to-day hoping every phone call was the one to say he had been found.

‘When they told me they’d found him I had to ask them twice if they were sure it was definitely him.

‘Now we can finally start grieving for our mum knowing they have been laid to rest together.’

Husband and wife laid to rest together after he spent 17 years in wrong grave

The plot where the family believed their father to be buried (Picture: North News & Pictures Ltd)

It is not yet clear how the mishap occurred – or how many, if any, more bodies have been buried at the wrong place at the Wingate graveyard.

The Diocese of Durham, which is responsible for burials at the graveyard, has launched a ‘lessons learned’ investigation.

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

‘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.’

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