Husband and wife buried together after 17 years in the wrong grave

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

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

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

For 17 years, his family frequented the wrong resting place which was only two meters away from where he would be buried.

It wasn’t until his wife Hilda Bell passed away in June that family members realized that their loved one was not where they had thought.

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

But 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 hopes of finding Thomas’s remains, adding further misery to the grieving family.

Tom Bell had visited the wrong grave for nearly two decades (Picture: North News & Pictures Ltd)
Hilda and Thomas Bell have been laid to rest together (Picture: North News & Pictures Ltd)

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

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

“We had lived our lives from day to day hoping that every phone call was the message that he had been found.

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

“Now we can finally begin to grieve for our mother, knowing that they were laid to rest together.”

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

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

The Diocese of Durham, which is responsible for burials in the cemetery, has launched a ‘lessons learned’ inquiry.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are grateful that Mr and Mrs Bell’s family is now able to let their mother rest in the same grave as their father and grieve in peace.

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

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