A Durham MP has written to senior Church of England figures to demand ‘urgent’ action after a grieving family have spent a month searching for their dad’s coffin.

Last month The Northern Echo revealed the grieving Bell family only discovered someone else had been buried in their dad’s grave for 17 years after the death of their mum, whose last wishes were to be buried alongside her loving 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: EXCLUSIVE - Durham family spent 17 years visiting wrong grave due to blunder

Hilda remains in a funeral home six weeks on from her death and eight graves have been dug in the search for Thomas Bell’s resting place, which still has not been found.

The Northern Echo: The graveyard in Wingate captured by drone. Picture: SIMON MCCABE PHOTOGRAPHYThe graveyard in Wingate captured by drone. Picture: SIMON MCCABE PHOTOGRAPHY

Now Easington MP Grahame Morris has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Bishop of Durham and Andrew Selous MP of the Parliamentary Church Commissioners, to ask for “urgent action”.

In a letter Mr Morris, who described the situation as “disturbing”, said: “This matter, and the protracted process, are causing considerable anxiety and distress for the family, who simply want to bury their parents together.

“I am writing to seek the advice and support of the Church Commissioners for England to help give this matter the attention and urgent action it requires. This means ensuring there are sufficient resources on the ground and permissions required to dig graves are urgently expedited.

To get more stories from County Durham direct to your email basket go here

“A greater urgency and resources are required to investigate and resolve this matter. Please can I seek advice on how we can progress this matter and assure the family this is being handled at the highest levels within the Church of England.”

The Northern Echo: Grahame Morris MP has written a letter to senior figures in the Church of England demanding "urgent action"Grahame Morris MP has written a letter to senior figures in the Church of England demanding "urgent action"

The MP previously called for an investigation, if the distressing case turns out not to be a one off.

Currently the family must apply to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Durham each time to have a plot dug up in the search for their father’s resting place.

Eight plots have now been dug up yet Thomas Bell's coffin is still missing.

On Monday (August 1) Tom Bell, who lost his mum to COPD on June 16, and has been unable to bury her since, told The Northern Echo: “We’re living on a day-to-day basis, hoping every phone call is the one to say he has been found.

“We can’t grieve for our mum because we’re up in arms dealing with this every day.”

“They’ve already dug up eight graves and still can’t find him – it’s absolutely awful.”

Read next:

If you want to read more great stories, why not subscribe to your Northern Echo for as little as £1.25 a week. Click here