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Family left devastated after discovering they were visiting the wrong grave for 43 years

Daisy Phillipson

Published 
| Last updated 

Family left devastated after discovering they were visiting the wrong grave for 43 years

Featured Image Credit: North News and Pictures

A grieving family has been left heartbroken after discovering they had been visiting the wrong grave for more than 43 years.

You can only imagine how Sylvia Ross, 67, and her daughter Lynette felt after finding out about the blunder.

All those years, they had been going to the same plot at Witton Park Cemetery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, believing that it belonged to Sylvia's dad, John Thomas Thompson.

They only found out about the mistake after spotting a Facebook post about a wrongly placed plaque, which was being moved by Durham County Council.

Sylvia Ross and her family have been visiting the wrong grave for more than four decades. Credit: North News and Pictures
Sylvia Ross and her family have been visiting the wrong grave for more than four decades. Credit: North News and Pictures

As it turns out, they'd actually been paying their respects to a stranger named Frederick Brown, who died in 1979 - the same year as John.

Authorities are now investigating the matter to find out how the mistake was made - and for how long.

Lynette said: "I never met my grandad, but my mam has been visiting his grave for 43 years and is utterly devastated.

"She's heartbroken as she says her dad has laid there thinking not one of us cared about him, with no flowers and no visits, nothing."

The 42-year-old added: "We're disgusted, and my mam is heartbroken."

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Details of the mishap were confirmed after Frederick's family noticed there wasn't enough room on their plot to put up a memorial and so they contacted the council.

As for how Sylvia and her relatives came to assume the area belonged to John, Lynette explained: "When my grandad died 43 years ago, before I was born, mam called the council to ask them to put a marker where he had been buried so she knew which plot she was going to.

"They put it on the plot we’ve been visiting my whole life and have taken flowers to every Birthday, Christmas, and Father’s Day while he has actually laid there with nothing.

"It's just disgusting, how can they get something so simple so wrong."

What makes the issue more complex is that the cemetery was previously run by Wear Valley District Council before being handed over to Durham County Council in 2009.

Graham Harrison, Durham County Council's bereavement services manager, apologised for the issue, saying: "We are sorry for the distress this error has caused the family.

"At the time, the cemetery would have been managed by Wear Valley District Council.

The local council is investigating the blunder. Credit: North News and Pictures
The local council is investigating the blunder. Credit: North News and Pictures

"Once we were made aware of the historic mistake, we carefully moved the items to the correct grave within the quickest possible time scale.

"Although the grave has now been corrected, this does not take away from the pain the family has experienced, and we would like to reiterate our sincerest apologies for any hurt that has been caused."

If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677 

Topics: Life, Real Life, News

Daisy Phillipson
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