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Human ashes left in Church of Saint Mary in the Marsh

By Sean Axtell

Human ashes mysteriously appeared inside an historic church, prompting an investigation into the woman who died.

Churchwarden Bill Caudwell discovered the small brown urn containing the ashes nestled next to the altar rail in the Church of Saint Mary in the Marsh.

Parishioners have since been trying to track family members of the 90-year-old before they bury her, but to no avail.

The Church of Saint Mary in the Marsh where the ashes were found
The Church of Saint Mary in the Marsh where the ashes were found

The urn bears the name Louisa C. Matthews who died on August 31 in 2003, however, no information explains where she lived or was cremated.

Police records showed the woman hadn’t died under suspicious circumstances, according to Mr Caudwell.

He said: “Because Louisa has been left in our care we feel responsible to ensure she receives the burial she deserves.

“But before then we would like to explore every avenue to try and find her family, so that we can learn more about her.”

The retired Harvey Grammar School teacher, who lives in the parish, added an ancestor search revealed possible leads.

But those linked to Louisa live in far flung areas of the country and many cannot be contacted.

William Caudwell
William Caudwell

And people he managed to speak with hadn’t heard of Louisa while police searches also drew blanks.

Mr Caudwell explained: “I had to go into the church on normal business and the casket was just down by the altar rail.”

He added: “I immediately contacted the Rev Julie Coleman and we decided to have them safely stored.

He said a lot of effort had been made to identify the woman, so far without success.

“We will be happy to bury Louisa in our churchyard at no cost, but to allow this it would be helpful to gather more information about the deceased.”

Rev Coleman said: “To honour her death and bury her I need a family member’s permission or we will have to apply for a Faculty from the Church of England for permission to bury her.”

The ashes were found last June, but the details have only just come to light.

  • Anyone with any information about the urn mystery is asked to contact church secretary Jacqueline Alston on 01797 362273.

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