Published: 00:15, 24 October 2018
| Updated: 10:07, 24 October 2018
A woman who faced a pauper's burial is to get the final send-off she always wanted thanks to a kind-hearted undertaker.
Tragic Anne McManus was set to be buried by Medway Council today after she died at the Wisdom Hospice in Rochester on September 18 without leaving a will or any next-of-kin.
But the 62-year-old had told friends she hated the thought of being buried because of her fear of worms and wanted her ashes scattered over the sea where she swam near her home on the Isle of Sheppey.
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Now her final wishes are set to be honoured after funeral director Luke Allum saw her story on KentOnline and in our sister paper the Sheerness Times Guardian and stepped in to organise the funeral and cremation.
The council had insisted it had no option but to bury her without written proof in case a long-lost relative later claimed her body.
But undertaker Mr Allum, one of the youngest funeral directors in the country at 26, has now agreed to organise the send-off and has given her a reprieve.
She was to have been buried this morning in Gillingham at 9.30am.
Mr Allum said: "When I read about her dilemma in the Sheerness Times Guardian I couldn't believe it.
"When no one else offered, I approached her friends and volunteered.
"It's the least I can do for a fellow Islander. It is what she deserves."
Miss McManus's friend Vivienne Hudson signed the paperwork at Mr Allum's office in Sheerness Broadway on Friday, along with neighbour Chris Reed and Tracy Jackson who runs Seabreeze caravan park in Marine Parade where Miss McManus lived.
All three had been trying to get Medway council to change its mind.
Mr Allum, who only set up his own firm a year ago, said: "It was a race against time to stop the burial and make alternative arrangements.
"I was on the phone for three days trying to sort it out."
The funeral will now be at 2pm on Monday, November 5, at the Garden of England cemetery, Bobbing.
Her ashes will be scattered over the sea near Sheppey Sailing Club, Sheerness, at a later date.
Mr Allum is stumping up the cost of more than £4,000 although it is hoped he will be reimbursed by Miss McManus's estate.
Friends say she had at least £20,000 in her bank before she died.
Mrs Hudson, of Marine Parade, Sheerness, said: "This is wonderful news. What was once going to be sad pauper's burial is turning into a great send-off we could never have dreamed of with a hearse and limousine thanks to Luke.
"Anne would have been so pleased."
It was only after Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson stepped in that Paul Edwards of Medway Crematorium confirmed the council would "gladly step down" if it received a formal request from Mrs Hudson or a funeral director. Mrs Hudson, 70, said she could not afford to pay for the cremation herself.
Mrs Reed said: "This illustrates how important it is to write a will or, at the very least, leave signed written instructions where people can find them, even if you don't have many assets."
Sheerness sailor Kevin Jarvis, who runs seal-watching tours and fishing trips from his boat Echo Five, had offered to take the ashes of Miss McManus out to sea for free but it is now likely to be a land-based ceremony.
Miss McManus's final journey will start from outside Luke Allum's premises in Sheerness at 1.30pm, pass Age UK where Miss McManus was a regular visitor, and along Sheerness High Street to Bobbing.
It is hoped Sheerness town chaplain the Rev Jeanette McLaren will take the service.
James Brown, Medway Council’s Head of Regulatory Services, said: “We understand that it is an extremely difficult time when a loved one passes away. In cases such as this, when no one comes forward to make the funeral arrangements, unless the deceased has left a will which details their preferences, we will organise a burial for them.”
Those wanting to pay their last respects to Miss McManus, who was a familiar sight on her bike, should call Mrs Jackson on 01795 669260.
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