TWO funeral home staff have been sacked after a mix-up with two corpses ended with the wrong body being cremated.
It meant one set of mourners turned up to the funeral of their loved not realising the coffin contained a complete stranger.
And the other family were forced to hold a funeral without a body - as their relative had already been cremated.
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The discovery led to the sacking of two members of staff of Co-operative Funeralcare and the launch of two investigations to uncover how the mistake occurred.
It is understood it happened last month when the wrong body was placed in a coffin and taken to Birtley Crematorium, Gateshead, where the funeral then took place.
It was only when staff prepared for another funeral that the error was uncovered.
The family had to be told that their loved one had already been cremated and the funeral had to proceed without the body.
A spokesperson for the company, which has over 880 funeral homes nationwide, apologised and said: "A serious breach of our strict procedures occurred and following a thorough investigation two members of staff have been dismissed.
"Once the issue came to light, we immediately notified the families concerned and apologised for any distress caused and we have liaised closely with the crematoria.
"We remain in close contact with the families.
"In the interests of client confidentiality we are unable to comment further."
Gateshead Council has also investigated the incident and Colin Huntington, its service director for local environmental services, said: "We understand how very difficult this must be for the families involved.
"We have carried out investigations and all indications are that all of our standard procedures were followed."
One local funeral director, who asked not to be named, said: "It's an absolutely diabolical mistake to make.
"Cremation is final, there is no way of undoing it. I feel for the family.
In a way they have not been able to lay their loved one to rest.
"Checking the name on the coffin and the person inside is a basic procedure."
Birtley Crematorium is due to close as part of costing cutting measures.