Court ruling means couple separated by death can spend eternity together

Court ruling means couple separated by death can spend eternity together

By Michael Upton | 25/01/2018

Court ruling means couple separated by death can spend eternity together

A COUPLE separated by death will be able to spend eternity side by side after a judge granted their children approval to fulfil their mother’s dying wish.

Lesley Newton told her son Dr Christopher Newton and daughter Hilary Tibbles that she regreted choosing for their late father David’s remains to be buried at St Lawrence’s Church in Tinsley — the parish where he had been brought until the age of ten.

A clerical court heard Mrs Newton, who died last October 85, had asked her children to try and arrange for her husband-of-48-years’ ashes to be exhumed to enable them to buried with hers in grounds of Rotherham Crematorium, where friends of theirs were buried and which was close to the home they had shared for so many years.

Now, Sarah Singleton QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Sheffield in her role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court — which has to approve exhumations from consecrated ground — has granted that wish.

Church philosophy is that in normal circumstances a last resting place should be just that and it is understood that in many cases requests for exhumation are refused unless the circumstances are exceptional or a mistake has been made. 

However, Ms Singleton ruled that in this case a mistake was made and that exhumation should be allowed.

Dr Christopher Newton officially made the request, supported by his sister.

In her ruling, Ms Singleton said: “It is hard to resist the conclusion that Mrs Newton made a serious mistake in her selection of a location for the burial of her husband's remains. 

“It is obvious that his real connections and the best place for those bereaved of him to mourn him lay in the venue now proposed. 

“Unfortunately, Mrs Newton is not around for me to ask why that was the case but I assume it reasonable to infer and find that she was overwhelmed by her loss and made this decision when still confused by grief.”

The judge added that the couple had lived together for the in the same house, which overlooks the woods and hills of Herringthorpe.

They had, she said, “enjoyed the local landscape together”.

Although it is only in “exceptional” circumstances that Consistory Court judges agreed to exhumation, Ms Singleton said, she added that she considered the circumstances in this case were sufficiently exceptional to grant permission.

“I conclude that an elderly bereaved woman made an understandable but clear mistake in selecting St Lawrence’s as the proper place for her husband’s cremated remains to be laid to rest,” she said.

“Although that location had most connection to her husband's childhood home up to the age of ten, all his life thereafter was rooted in the Rotherham area and in particular the area where the Rotherham Crematorium is located. 

“Their friends were there. 

“He walked and enjoyed the countryside there. His friends' funerals were there and, indeed, his own funeral was there. 

“I am satisfied that had he expressed any wish it would have been for his remains to be laid to rest in what was undoubtedly his home area. 

“It is also highly significant and important that, as she approached the end of her own life, Mrs Newton herself realised the mistake perhaps contemplating her own wishes both to be laid to rest with him and to be laid to rest in the place where they had lived their lives together.”