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Anger as couple forced to purchase grave

PUBLISHED: 14:33 07 May 2009 | UPDATED: 13:51 03 July 2010

Coral and Russell Fisher at the graveside of their daughter Rachel.

Coral and Russell Fisher at the graveside of their daughter Rachel.

AN angry Colbholm couple say they have been forced to purchase the 34-year-old grave of their daughter so they could replace the headstone.

Russell and Coral Fisher, of Granville Road, say they feel angry and upset after having to pay £64.

AN angry Colbholm couple say they have been forced to purchase the 34-year-old grave of their daughter so they could replace the headstone.

Russell and Coral Fisher, of Granville Road, say they feel angry and upset after having to pay £64.50 to purchase the deeds of the Magdalen Cemetery grave where their daughter Rachel was buried in 1974 after dying of meningitis at the age of just 15 months.

During the 1970s, grave plots for children aged under 12 were free, and Mr and Mrs Coral never received any deeds.

However, after deciding to replace the weathered headstone in March the couple found to their horror they would have to purchase the plot in order to carry out repairs.

Mr Fisher, 64, said: “We already have the stone on it. This is just a way of getting money out of us. We were very upset by this. I know it's a good while ago we lost our girl but it's still a touchy subject.

“We still think of her everyday and when we talk about it a lot we both get upset but when you have bureaucracy mucking about with things it makes me angry. You never get over losing a child.

“Dying is an expensive habit. I know businesses have to make a profit, I understand that, but this just seems as if they are trying to get all the pennies they can,” added Mr Fisher, a retired laboratory assistant.

The couple finally paid the purchase fee and have ordered a new memorial to replace the white marble heart which currently marks Rachel's grave.

Simon Mutten, environmental services manager at the borough council, confirmed it was council policy not to charge for child graves because it was felt parents would have made no financial provision for the purchase of a grave and consequently no exclusive right was issued for the grave.

However, following an amendment to fees and charges in the early 1980s, fees were introduced to purchase the 4ft by 2ft child's grave.

Mr Mutten said fees were introduced because the erection of memorials on graves where the Exclusive Right of Burial is not purchased was not then, and is still not permitted, due to ownership and liability issues.

However, a headstone has been in place on Mr and Mrs Fisher's daughter's grave for 34 years and Mr Mutten accepted it must have been “one that slipped through the net” as most graves for children who died around the mid 1970s have no headstone.

Mr Mutten added: “The council has also recognised, through an increasing number of requests, the desire for parents, in time, to be reunited with their child. The current policy requiring the Exclusive Right of Burial for children's graves to be purchased by the parents, as well as enabling them to erect a memorial, also ensures they will be able to arrange interment of their own cremated remains within the plot when they die.

“The council has always been aware of, and sympathises with, the grief and sense of loss that particularly attends the death of a child and are happy to discuss with Mr and Mrs Fisher their concerns.”


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