A Durham MP has called for an investigation after a family spent 17 years visiting their dad’s grave – only to discover someone else was buried there.

On Thursday (July 21) The Northern Echo revealed how the grieving Bell family only discovered the shocking blunder after the death of their mum, whose last wishes were to be buried alongside her husband Thomas Bell.

The family were shocked to be told just two days before Hilda’s funeral that gravediggers had found a stranger’s coffin where their dad should have been buried at Holy Trinity Church, Wingate.

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

Hilda remains in a funeral home almost five weeks on from her death and Thomas’s is yet to be found.

Now Easington MP Grahame Morris, has called for a full investigation if blunder turns out to be more than a one-off, to find out why it happened in the first place.

Mr Morris, who has been dealing with the case for the family, told The Northern Echo: “First and foremost, my thoughts are with the Bell family. It is difficult to express the sorrow and grief of the situation. The trauma inflicted on the family and the wider community is immense.

The Northern Echo: Tom Bell, 58, at the grave his family believed their father was buried at for 17 years. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTTom Bell, 58, at the grave his family believed their father was buried at for 17 years. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

“The family have been robbed of the opportunity to properly mourn the loss of a loved one and the community requires assurance that their loved ones have been properly buried.

“If this turns out not to be an isolated incident there needs to be a full investigation and the Diocese of Durham should act urgently to expedite all requests and permissions to assure the community they understand the magnitude of this matter.”

Read more: Body found in search of Northallerton man Matthew Newbould

Six plots have been dug up in the search for Thomas’ coffin so far but have still not found where he is buried.

Now the family have applied to the Chancellor of the Durham Diocese, which looks after burials at the site, to have permission to dig up a plot where they hope to find their dad buried.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Durham, which looks after burials at the site has responded to the calls for an investigation, saying: “The Archdeacon of Sunderland will carry out an investigation into what happened once this particular matter has been dealt with.

“We all appreciate the distress this has caused to the family and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.”


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