A County Durham church has been forced to tell a second family that they have been visiting the wrong grave for years - after a distressing blunder was discovered.

The grieving Bell family were shocked to be told just two days before mum Hilda’s funeral that the grave where they believed their father was buried for 17 years was actually home to another coffin.

Tom Bell, 58, and his sisters only discovered the blunder after the death of their mum, whose last wishes were to be buried alongside her doting husband Thomas Bell at Holy Trinity Church, Wingate.

Read more: EXCLUSIVE - Durham family spent 17 years visiting wrong grave due to blunder

New details have now emerged confirming that gravediggers first discovered the coffin of a woman while preparing Thomas’ grave for Hilda, then discovered another man was also buried nearby.

The Northern Echo understands the relatives of the man, who like Thomas Bell has been buried in the wrong location for years, have now been informed of the shocking error.

The Northern Echo: Six plots have been dug up so far in the hunt for Thomas' grave. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTSix plots have been dug up so far in the hunt for Thomas' grave. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Six plots have now been dug up in the search for Thomas Bell’s coffin, yet his resting place has still not been found.

The Bell family are currently waiting for permission from the Chancellor of the Durham Diocese to dig another plot where they now believe Thomas’ coffin may lie.

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On Thursday (July 21) Tom Bell, a factory worker from Easington, told The Northern Echo of his family’s hurt after the shock discovery.

He said: “Losing our mam was devastating.

“And then to be told the grave of our dad we have spent the last 17 years visiting is not his is just unbearable. How could this happen?.

“Our mam is lying in a funeral home waiting to be buried and our dad is somewhere in the cemetery in an unmarked grave.”

The Northern Echo:

It is understood that a mix-up with the headstones on two plots after Thomas’s burial in 2005 and inconsistent records after an original graveyard map was lost in a fire sometime around the 1980s could be to blame.

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Reacting to the story social media users rushed to support the Bell family, with many declaring the situation ‘heart-breaking’.

One commenter posted: “How heartbreaking. I hope they find the dad soon and they can lay there mam to rest with her husband. Cannot imagine what they going through.”

Another said: “Heartbreaking this, hope the family get some closure and have their dad found then both parents can finally rest in peace.”


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