Hospital chiefs are investigating after a ‘terrible’ mix-up led to a family burying the wrong person.
Mourners gathered for a church funeral and burial of an unnamed elderly man in his 90s – not knowing that they were grieving for a complete stranger.
Just a day after the ceremony at St Mary’s Church near Carlisle, Cumbria on July 6, shocked relatives were told of the blunder.
They were told that another Cumbrian man – believed to be in his late 80s – had been buried instead.
The younger man was due to be cremated on July 13 and the error emerged only when Cumberland Infirmary contacted George Hudson & Son Funeral Directors asking when they were going to collect him.
His coffin was exhumed and the correct body interred. Then the cremation was held a week late on July 20.
A spokesman for North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation NHS Trust said an investigation is underway into what went wrong.
This will involve speaking to mortuary staff.
They added: ‘We are supporting the funeral directors to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families at what is already a difficult time.
‘We are undertaking an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and will share the findings with the families once this is complete.’
A spokesman for the funeral director said: ‘Our sympathy goes out to the families involved.
‘Our family have been funeral directors for more than 150 years and nothing like this has happened before.
‘Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong. We handed in paperwork for the man whose body we believed we were collecting.
‘There are protocols to ensure we have who we think we have. We didn’t realise we had another person’s body. We feel for the families.’
All exhumations must be approved by the Home Office, a process that can take several days