Daughter fails in bid to reunite parents' remains
A grieving daughter has failed in a bid to reunite her parents' remains in death in a Horsmonden churchyard.
A Church of England judge hardened his heart to the pleas of Jill Mills and refused her permission to have her father's ashes exhumed from the churchyard at St Margaret's, 12 years after they were buried, and reinterred together with her mother, who was buried elsewhere in the churchyard.
Church rules decree that unless there are exceptional circumstances the last resting place of those who die if they are buried in consecrated ground must be just that.
And in this case Chancellor John Gallagher, a judge of the Church's Consistory Court, ruled that the circumstances of the case were not exceptional enough to warrant a departure from that principal.
In her plea to the court Mrs Mills also raised concerns about the state of the church yard. As far as that was concerned Chanceller Gallagher said he hoped the concerns she raised in the case would lead to improvements in the churchyard.
Mrs Mills had sought to have the ashes of her father, Percy Morphett, who died in 2000 aged 82, exhumed on the basis that her mother, who died last December, would have wanted to be buried with her husband.
In written submissions, she wrote: "My mother wished to be buried and my dad was cremated in 2000. I desire that they should be together, so that we can pay tributes together in one place."
At the same time she also expressed dismay that, since Mr Morphett's ashes were interred, the surrounding area of the churchyard has not been well cared for.
The Chancellor said that her petition was supported by other members of the family, but he ruled that Mr Morphett’s remains must stay where they are.
He said: "The norm is permanence in relation to Christian burial, and the norm can only be departed from if there are exceptional circumstances made out so as to justify departure from it. The burden of proof is on the petitioner to establish, on the balance of probabilities, exceptional circumstances."
Ruling that Mrs Mills had failed to do so, he continued: " Distress or upset about the location of the interment of Mr Morphett's cremated remains is not enough. All concerned knew at the time he was interred that he was being interred and where he was being interred. What thought Mrs Morphett may have given to her own burial and place of rest is unclear.
"Distress or upset about the area surrounding Mr Morphett's cremated remains is not enough. Equally a desire that one's parents 'be together,' though understandable, is not enough."
He said that when a "mistake" was made that could be regarded as a reason to grant a request for exhumation. But in this case he said that in this case, if there was any mistake, it related to a lack of thought as to what would happen in the future.
And he added : "That is not enough.”
He continued : "I have little doubt that Mrs Mills and the family will be disappointed by my decision. I hope that in the light of this Judgment greater efforts will be made, where appropriate, to maintain the Churchyard, and I further hope that all concerned will recognise that Mr and Mrs Morphett's remains are in reality, in close proximity, but that, more importantly, they have both been entrusted to God for resurrection."
- Click here for more Maidstone news
- Click here for more news from across the county