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Funeral director says widow shouldn’t have to pay for repairs to smashed family plot

A funeral director has come to the defence of a widow who was told she would have to pay for repairs to her relatives’ grave, even though she did not cause the damage.

Kate Southion, 72, from Bermondsey, was told by the council that she would have to pay for her parents’ and brother’s grave to be repaired and that she should have got it insured after she found it partly smashed in Camberwell New Cemetery.

But Simon Dyer, of Bermondsey-based Albin’s funeral directors, insists that he has never been told to advise families to insure a grave – and that he doesn’t know of anyone who ever has.

“The point is it’s not about insurance – it’s just wrong,” he told the News.

“As far as I’m concerned, that has been damaged by a piece of machinery and they should put it right for that poor woman – she’s been through enough.”

During a recent visit to her family’s grave, Mrs Southion found the granite headstone on which her brother’s name is inscribed had been knocked over and part of the kerbstone surrounding the grave had been broken.

Mrs Southion’s mother, who died 25 years ago, and father, who died fifteen years ago, are both buried at the family plot, while her younger brother, who died of a brain haemorrhage at the of 26, had his ashes scattered there in 1984.

Simon Dyer (right) with his father Barry Albin-Dyer and brother Jon Dyer

The widow, whose other brother died last March on her birthday and whose husband of 52 years passed away in September, said she had spoken to other families who said they had never been advised about the insurance either.

“I haven’t got the money to fix this,” she said. “I’m a widow now and I’m living on a pension and for me to pay for that is ridiculous and I don’t see why I should have to.

“You could insure the gravestone but it would be astronomical because it’s a public place; it’s like having my jewellery insured and putting it the middle of a public car park and saying ‘you mustn’t touch that’.”

“Surely they are duty-bound to contact you to say the stone has been damaged,” she added.

Councillor Richard Livingstone, Southwark Cuncil’s cabinet member for environment, transport management and air quality, said: “I am very sorry to hear of Ms Southion’s distress in this matter and will be sure to ask the team to remind funeral directors that they need to stress the section of the memorial application form that advises grave owners of the need for insurance.”


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