Court rejects widow’s application to move husband’s ashes because of rabbits


Burrowing bunnies who vandalise graves are not a sufficient reason to raise the dead, a top church judge has ruled.

The judge hardened his heart to a plea by a Horncastle widow, Lynda Baker, to have her late husband’s ashes exhumed and buried in another cemetery.

Among the reasons Mrs Baker highlighted in her application was the fact rabbits are burrowing into the grave where the ashes are currently buried.

Mrs Baker wanted the ashes - buried in the parish church yard at Aby in 2007 - moved to Horncastle cemetery.

However, the Chancellor of Lincoln, Mark Bishop, who is also a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court, said “no.”

Only in exceptional circumstances is permission given for buried remains to be moved.

Chancellor Bishop said he was sticking to the Church’s principal that a last resting place should normally be just that.

He said: “The presence of rabbits in the churchyard does not justify the exhumation of the ashes.”

In her application, Mrs Baker - who now lives in Horncastle - also complained of other graveyard vandalism by the rabbits.

She claimed that in addition to them burrowing into her late husband Ronald Carr’s last resting place, rabbits had rendered ground in the church yard ‘un-walkable’ in places.

Mrs Baker also claimed the state of the church yard now made it difficult for her to walk on when she went to visit the grave because she suffers from a slipped disk.

However, Chancellor Bishop said: “The presumption is that burial of human remains in consecrated ground is permanent.

“The principle of permanence can only be departed from if there are special circumstances which justify an exception to the principle that Ronald Carr was laid to rest in 2007 and his remains should not now be disturbed.”

He said that despite Mrs Baker’s back problems, there were no medical reasons to make an exception to those rules.

He added that there were no other exceptional reasons for exhumation either.

He continued: I would like to emphasise that I accept the genuineness of what Mrs Baker has set out in her application to me – but that is not sufficient to allow me to take the exceptional course of ordering exhumation.

“I am unable to grant this application. There is no basis in law that would permit me to find exceptional reasons that could set aside the rule that Christian burial is permanent, and that once buried the remains must be left to lie in peace.

“The reasons for an exhumation advanced by the applicant are insufficient to establish that this is an exceptional situation Where exhumation could be permitted.”

In a separate decision, but quoting identical religious principles, the same judge also refused permission for another local woman to have her father’s ashes exhumed from St Helen’s church yard at Edlington and Wispington, to be re-united with his wife in Newport Cemetery in Lincoln.

Miss Jane Padgett had sought permission for the exhumation of her father, James Thomas Padgett, who died in August 1988 and was buried at the church yard.

She said that at the time of her father’s death, her mother had lived in Wispington but prior to her death, had moved closer to Lincoln.

When the mother died in 2007, her ashes were placed in a cremation plot in Newport Cemetery where Miss Padgett herself also intends her remains to be buried when she dies.

In her application she said that she suffers from osteo-arthritis and that because of her health, she does not expect to be able to make the 50-mile round trip to Wispington more than twice a year to visit her father’s grave.

She pointed out she could visit regularly - if they were in Newport Cemetery.

Miss Padgett said she had purchased the plot at Newport Cemetery so that her parents, who had been married for 42 years, could be placed in the same plot.

However, the judge, in refusing permission for the couple to be re-united in death, said that again he did not consider there were any exceptional reasons for over-riding the Christian rule that there was “presumption of permanence” in respect of a last resting place.

“I am not prepared to permit this exhumation to proceed,” he said.