A husband rented a van, broke into a failing funeral parlour and stole his mother-in-law’s body to take to a different undertaker – without telling his grieving wife.
The man, who has asked not to be named, had not been able to get in contact with the now-banned undertaker, where his recently deceased mother-in-law’s body was being kept for several days.
Desperate to give her a proper send-off, he decided to rescue his dead mother-in-law from Butterfly Funeral Services in Rochester, Kent.
He said: ‘I had no option; I’d even spent two days at the police station trying to track the owner down, but I just couldn’t get hold of her.
Desperate to give her a proper send-off, the man decided to rescue his dead mother-in-law from Butterfly Funeral Services in Rochester, Kent
‘I had to get the body out. I had taken on all of the organising and I didn’t want to bother my wife at this time.
‘She still to this day doesn’t know what happened and I won’t be telling her.’
The frantic husband said he asked traders to act as look-outs as he used a doorway down an alleyway to break into Butterfly Funeral Services.
He loaded the corpse onto a trolley in broad daylight and transported it to a hired van – before returning to pick up clothing his wife had dropped off to dress her mother’s body.
The doting husband then took the body to another funeral director in Rochester, who has confirmed this version of events.
The man’s actions, which took place a year ago, were revealed this week as bailiffs repossessing the parlour discovered 16 full urns on a shelf which had not been given to family members.
Karen Calder, who owned the parlour, has also been banned from using the services at Medway Crematorium and Vinters Park Crematorium in Maidstone under her name because of unpaid bills.
The company ceased trading several weeks ago, leaving grieving relatives with unanswered questions.
Enforcement agent Robert Hamshare was so appalled on finding the urns he tracked Ms Calder down to her home.
Mr Hamshare, whose duty it is to remove goods from premises, has notified Medway Crematorium and given Ms Calder an ultimatum to return the ashes to their rightful owners.
Leading Medway funeral director John Weir, who has four branches across the Towns, said: ‘The company involved were not subject to any regulatory inspection by either of the two professional organisations.
‘Had they have been, then issues of poor practice, such have been highlighted would not have occurred.’
Meanwhile, a handwritten note has been put in the shop window asking people to email if they want to collect the ashes.
Ms Calder said she had closed the parlour ‘due to ill health’.
She said: ‘I sincerely apologise if the families I have served have had difficulty in contacting me.’
Avalon, a company which specialises in pre-paid packages, sub-contracted the arrangements and ceremony to Butterfly, which set up in the town more than two years ago.
A statement from Avalon said: ‘We have a dedicated funeral director team who manage our relationships with funeral directors and carry out rigorous checks on all the funeral directors we work with.
‘Butterfly’s have always provided a professional service for Avalon.
‘There are no requirements for funeral directors to be registered with a trade body, however, we do work with many funeral directors who are registered with a trade body.’
Janet Morville-Smith, head of risk and compliance, added: ‘While Avalon always put our customers and their families first, it would be unfair to discredit this funeral director due to unforeseen circumstances that befell her which were out of her control, given that her previous service to the industry has been professional and exceptional.’
Butterfly is not registered with the National Board of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied Independent Funeral Directors, both of which monitor and regulate the profession.
Aside from burglary, it is not clear whether he committed any offences.