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Exhumations

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The petitioner (aged 98) and her late husband had lived in Belgium but had regularly travelled to Felixstowe over many years to visit the petitioner's mother. The petitioner's husband had died in 1992 and his ashes had been interred in Felixstowe Cemetery. The husband had no religious faith and the petitioner believed at the time of interment of his ashes that the ashes were being interred in an unconsecrated part of the cemetery, though it was eventually discovered that the whole of the cemetery was consecrated. The petitioner now wished to exhume her husband's ashes, and after her death to have his ashes and her own ashes scattered on the seashore in Felixstowe, in order to fulfill their long-held wish. In 1993, at the time when it was thought that the grave was unconsecrated, the petitioner had obtained a Home Office Licence to exhume her husband's ashes, but she had allowed the licence to lapse. The Chancellor, in the very special circumstances of this case, decided to treat this as an exceptional situation where he felt justified in granting a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her parents exhumed from the churchyard and reinterred in an unconsecrated burial ground at the Trappist Abbey of Mount St. Bernard, near Coalville in North Leicestershire, where the remains of several members of her husband's family were interred. The petitioner's original reason for seeking exhumation had been that the family home, Quenby Hall, next to the churchyard, had to be sold. But in a revised petition the petitioner asked that a faculty be granted for three reasons: (i) the interments at Hungerton had been a mistake; (ii) it was intended to put the remains in a family grave; and (ii) pastoral reasons. The Chancellor did not accept the arguments and dismissed the petition.

The petitioner wished to have the remains of her late father-in-law temporarily exhumed for DNA analysis. She claimed that in 2018 her husband had been wrongly convicted of two rapes in 1983 and 1988. The petitioner's sister-in-law did not believe that her brother had committed the offences of which he had been convicted, but that her father might well have been the perpetrator. The Chancellor considered that the petitioner had made out a case for the temporary disinterment of the remains and sampling of bone fragments for DNA analysis, to establish whether there was a possibility of a miscarriage of justice. He accordingly granted a faculty.

The petitioners wished to have their father's ashes (interred in 2004) exhumed and reinterred in the grave of their mother, whose body was buried in 2015. Considering the guidelines in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], the Chancellor determined to grant a faculty on the basis that (a) the reinterment would be into a family grave and would free up a cremation plot

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise the temporary removal from the vault beneath the Sheldon Chapel of a skull, possibly that of William Shakespeare, to enable the carrying out of a detailed archaeological investigation to include laser scanning, radio carbon dating, and an anthropological assessment. The Chancellor found no scholarly or other evidence to support the story that the skull was that of William Shakespeare.

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her father and reinter them in the grave of her mother in the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that neither a desire to have both parents' remains together, nor the state of the location where the father's remains were interred, were enough to amount to special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation. Nor was there any element of mistake as to the places of interment. He therefore refused to grant a faculty.

Faculty granted for exhumation and reinterment in family grave in another churchyard.

The petitioner wished to have her late husband's cremated remains exhumed and reinterred in Scotland, on a property that the deceased had acquired in 1962. Four relatives and a friend of the deceased objected. They contended that the petitioner did not like them putting floral tributes and cards on the grave and had been observed removing flowers and cards, and that the petitioner's motive for moving the remains to Scotland was to put them where the objectors would find it difficult to put tributes on the deceased's grave. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment and urged restraint on both sides, advising the objectors not to put cards on the grave and expressing the hope that the petitioner would not to remove flowers placed by the objectors.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to permit the opening of a grave and the opening of a casket, in order to permit the petitioners' mother's wedding ring to be placed with the ashes of the petitioners' parents, which had been interred six weeks previously.

The cremated remains of a member of the family concerned in this matter had recently been interred in her parents' grave. The interment had been arranged by certain members of the family, who did not discuss the location of the interment with other members of the family, who, as it turned out, objected to the last deceased being interred in her parents' grave, and they applied for a faculty for exhumation. The Chancellor ruled that the interment should not have taken place in the parents' grave without the agreement of all of the next of kin, and accordingly granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment elsewhere.