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Mum wants to exhume son Danny Hitchcock in row over grave

Betty Lilley beside her son Danny's grave in Herne Bay Cemetery.
Betty Lilley beside her son Danny's grave in Herne Bay Cemetery.

Betty Lilley beside her son Danny's grave in Herne Bay Cemetery

by Joe Walker

A grieving mum wants to exhume the ashes of her son after the council banned her from cutting the grass at his graveside.

Heartbroken Betty Lilley is taking the drastic action after health and safety bosses at Herne Bay cemetery warned people not to use power tools on the site.

Danny Hitchcock
Danny Hitchcock

The 62-year-old says her son Danny Hitchcock – who died in a car crash in 2005 – is not being left in peace and has demanded to bring him home.

She has already told a funeral director to contact the city council and the Home Office to obtain an exhumation licence.

Betty, of Sea Street, Herne Bay, said: “I’ve been in touch with the undertaker because I’m going to take Daniel out. He’s not at rest anymore and neither am I. I’m told it’ll be costly, but I want to bring him home.

“What they’ve done is so petty, but it tears you apart. Why can’t they just let him rest and let us do what we want to do? I’ve had enough. All of this just brings it all back.”

Council bosses have voiced fears about people using power tools on the grounds without insurance, with the row reaching boiling point this week after a meeting was called to discuss the concerns.

But cemetery users say they are being forced to tidy the graves of loved ones themselves because council cutbacks have left parts of the site a mess.

Betty – who uses a battery-powered strimmer and a hand-pushed lawnmower - said: “I want Daniel’s grave to look nice. It gives me some comfort to know I can go up there and keep it looking neat and tidy.

“It’s not our fault the council doesn’t cut the grass enough. We’re actually saving them money by keeping the graves tidy ourselves.

“To stop us doing what we want to do for our loved ones shows no respect at all. This isn’t a playing field – it’s a cemetery.

“Danny has been gone for seven years now but in my heart the pain does not go away. It’s like a knife digging in.”

The immaculate Garden of Remembrance at Herne Bay Cemetery.
The immaculate Garden of Remembrance at Herne Bay Cemetery.

The immaculate Garden of Remembrance at Herne Bay Cemetery

Jane Port regularly visits the cemetery and the grave of her only son Simon, who died in 2006. The dad-of-one was just 31 when he suffered a massive asthma attack on holiday in Spain.

Jane, 59, of Blean View Road, Greenhill, said: “If I had known what I know now I would have never put him there.

“The problem is we’re showing the council up for what they’re not doing elsewhere in the cemetery.

“The whole thing has upset me so much that I’m seriously thinking that I want to take him away from there. Why can’t they just leave us alone?”

Christine Underdown has been visiting her mum Dolly Wells at the cemetery since she died in 2003.

"i’ve been in touch with the undertaker because i’m going to take daniel out. he’s not at rest anymore and neither am i"
– danny's mum betty lilley

The 57-year-old, who lives in Hampton, said: “It’s just more health and safety madness.

“All they’d need to do is get anyone using tools to sign a disclaimer form and then they’ve covered themselves. Surely that would make sense?

“For it to get to the stage where people are thinking of taking their loved ones out of the cemetery is horrendous.

"Having to deal with the death of a child is traumatic enough, but to then have to consider moving them because of health and safety rules is inconceivable.”

City council cemetery chief Larissa Laing said: “We understand the sensitivities involved and that people want to make sure the grave spaces of their loved ones are kept neat and tidy, but we do have concerns about people using power tools on public-owned land at the cemetery without having the necessary insurance cover.

“As a result we called a public meeting for an initial discussion about this issue and any other subjects cemetery users wanted to raise.

“The council took on board all the points people made about why they feel the need to use power tools and will now consider the way forward.

“Concern was also expressed about the length of the grass in the cemetery at the moment.

“The recent wet weather has resulted in the grass growing very fast and we are discussing further maintenance with our contractor to resolve this.”

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