AN investigation is under way after 11 funeral urns containing the ashes of people cremated in a North-East town were found dumped on wasteland.

The memorial caskets were found in Darlington by workers clearing shrubs from the CE Electric substation behind Borough Road.

The remains were all supposed to be in the care of the Co-operative funeral parlour in the town.

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The Northern Echo understands that many relatives thought that their loved ones’ ashes had been scattered in the grounds of Darlington Crematorium.

One woman said she felt sick to her stomach when she heard the news.

A spokeswoman for the Cooperative said last night the company did not know how the urns were lost, and admitted that the incident was a matter of “great concern”.

Police and Darlington Borough Council have been involved in the investigation, although police have now concluded that no crime has been committed.

The urns were left with documents identifying the deceased, who were cremated between 1979 and 1990. It is thought the ashes may have been lost when the Co-operative moved its funeral parlour from North Road to St Cuthbert’s Way several years ago, or when its building was refurbished earlier this year.

A statement released by the Co-op indicated that the urns were lost recently.

“The funeral home has recently undergone a major refurbishment, during which these cremated remains were transferred to the new premises.

They have been kept securely in our care for as long as 30 years.

“We are co-operating fully with the police with regards to this matter which, understandably, is of great concern.

“It is still unclear as to how or why the cremated remains were removed from our premises, whether accidentally or deliberately, but this was clearly done without our permission.”

Council officials say the people had been cremated at the authority’s crematorium, then signed out to the care of the funeral director. A spokeswoman said: “Our crematorium staff were asked to collect 11 urns containing cremated remains from land off Borough Road in Darlington.

“These dated as far back as 1979. Our records show that these were all collected from the crematorium by a funeral director at the time of the funerals.

“The urns have now been returned to a local funeral director.

“The matter has been referred to the police, and crematorium staff worked with all parties to help contact relatives of the deceased.”

Officers from Durham Police have been investigating the discovery. A spokesman said last night that no arrests were expected.

He said: “Our inquiries show this may have been an error of judgement by someone working for the funeral director.

“We are confident that at the present time no criminal offences have been committed and no further inquiries are being carried out by the police.

“We have reported all our findings to the council.”

■ Were your relative’s ashes found at Borough Road? Contact The Northern Echo on 01325-505064.