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Family demands refund from Gateway Family Funeral Services in Gillingham after widow pays £3,500

A family says they have been left devastated after an undertakers allegedly failed to honour a £3,500 refund of their elderly mother’s savings which she handed over towards a funeral plan.

Gary Tapson, acting on behalf of his mum – a widow in her 80s – paid the sum to Gateway Family Funeral Services in Gillingham.

Gary Tapson is fighting to get a refund for his mother
Gary Tapson is fighting to get a refund for his mother

But after becoming uncomfortable with a lack of detail in the invoice and meeting company director Danny Clarke face-to-face, the family changed their minds and asked for the money back

In September, Mr Clarke told them in a letter that if they were unhappy, "we would need a letter requesting the move [to another company] and a full refund".

This letter was sent then nothing further was heard until the family made social media comments about the situation and the company got back in touch, but, they claim, without a plan to pay the money back.

Numerous attempts by KentOnline to contact Mr Clarke have been unsuccessful, including phone calls, emails and a visit to his home where a letter was dropped off.

We also spoke to a woman said to be the company accountant who said she no longer worked for the business and had no idea how to contact Mr Clarke.

The funeral parlour in Gillingham
The funeral parlour in Gillingham

Gary approached Gateways to compile the plan after going to its premises formerly occupied by another undertakers which had arranged his late father’s funeral and done a “fabulous job”.

The 61-year-old, who has power of attorney over his mother’s financial matters, said: “At first he seemed quite open and came across friendly. I quite liked him.

“I asked him what we do if the company goes bust as there was no insurance. He assured me it wouldn’t. It was a family-run business and he had been in it for years.”

The retired BT engineer said his mother, who used to work in a factory, was keen to get her arrangements sorted because she did not want to bother her children with the responsibility.

However, alarm bells started to ring when he complained to Mr Clarke that the invoice was not detailed enough, namely there appeared be no insurance if the company went into administration.

Subsequent visits to the parlour by relatives raised concern and the decision was made to find an alternative undertakers.

“I feel we may not be the only ones left in this dreadful situation.”

Gary said it then became difficult to get hold of the company and excuses were made as to why a refund was not forthcoming – despite the letter from his mother requesting her hard-earned savings back.

He said: “Mr Clarke made all sorts of excuses, including his accountant being abroad, sickness and family matters.”

Following the news that the Gillingham Road company has been dissolved, the family are now convinced they will not see a penny of the money back.

Gary said: “I just want this to be warning to others. Be 100% of who you are dealing with.

“I feel we may not be the only ones left in this dreadful situation.”

He added that they have reported the matter to the police.

A spokesman for the force said: “On April 10, we received a report relating to a business in Gillingham. Inquiries are ongoing to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the report.”

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