Family’s anger at council’s coffin blunder

COFFIN row: The late Colin Birdsall's daughter Stella is pictured third from left with friends and family.
COFFIN row: The late Colin Birdsall's daughter Stella is pictured third from left with friends and family.
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A GRIEVING daughter was left “heartbroken” after a Wakefield Council official stopped her father’s burial at Knottingley Cemetery saying his £3,000 metal coffin was banned.

Stella Birdsall, 48, and her brother Reece Birdsall, 38, had ordered the vacuum sealed metal casket for their father Colin, 72, and planned a “perfect” funeral service.

Ms Birdsall said the funeral last Thursday was ruined when the burial was halted at the cemetery.

Undertakers took her father’s body away and moved him from the metal coffin to a wooden casket before the burial went ahead.

Ms Birdsall said: “We arrived at Knottingley Cemetery from St Botolph’s Church and then everything came to a standstill.

“A council official was on the phone in front of the coffin and no one knew what was going on.

“After about 10 minutes, we were told the council wouldn’t allow us to bury my dad because his casket was metal.

“We were all in total shock. We were given two options, either to postpone the burial or to swap dad’s coffin and continue.

“We chose the latter because all the guests were already there, but we never had a choice in the coffin.

“Dad was whisked off to the undertakers, leaving us and the guests in the cemetery.

-“In just half-an-hour, my dad was swapped into a plain rectangular wooden casket, as it was the only one available, and brought back.

“There was then confusion over which way my father was laying and he was spun twice over his own grave. The whole ordeal was just absolutely disgusting. There was no compassion, respect or dignity. I wanted that day to be perfect because it was the last thing I could have done for my dad.

“The council ruined that and I can never get that day back. Our lasting memories of dad are of this, it is heartbreaking and has been haunting me ever since.

“I want my father exhuming now to give him the decent send off he deserves.”

Wakefield Council has apologised to Colin Birdsall’s family and has said the local authority will make arrangements for him to be reburied in his original metal coffin.

The council has also agreed to pay for the reburial.

Glynn Humphries, Wakefield Council’s service director for environment and streetscene, said: “We would like to apologise to Ms Birdsall and her family for the distress our actions caused them during what was already a very difficult time.

“Having looked into the issue we could have acted differently and, on this occasion, carried out the family’s wishes and given them the funeral they originally planned, including the metal casket.”

Leeds Civic Hall.

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