Ex-gravediggers seek town council support

L-r, ex-grave diggers for Northumberland County Council, Chris Gregory and Malcolm Purvis.

L-r, ex-grave diggers for Northumberland County Council, Chris Gregory and Malcolm Purvis.

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Sacked gravediggers Chris Gregory and Malcolm Purvis have stepped up their effort to get an apology from Northumberland County Council.

The pair were dismissed for gross misconduct in 2011 after apparent irregularities at Berwick’s two cemeteries came to light.

It was initially thought there could be 30 cases of burials in the wrong grave, the wrong memorial being on a grave, deeds having been issued incorrectly or an unregistered burial having taken place

However, a subsequent investigation confirmed this was not the case, although there were serious issues with record keeping.

The council has apologised to the families of all those concerned but not to Mr Gregory or Mr Purvis.

Mr Gregory, speaking at a meeting of Berwick Town Council, said: “The county council refuses to take responsibility for the negative and slanderous publicity that we faced in the media and we are still awaiting our apology.

“We’ve spent three years asking for help in responding to the scandalous stories that the county council seemed fit to broadcast and yet our elected members, with the exception of Georgina Hill, have failed to help. Why?”

Mayor Isabel Hunter said it was an issue that should be taken up with senior management at County Hall.

But Councillor Hill said: “It doesn’t inspire confidence from the public that the town council keeps saying it’s a county council issue.”

Councillor Tom Forrester called on Berwick’s three county councillors to raise the matter.

Councillor Jeanette Beresford said: “I think the lads were badly treated and I think the county council should be pulled to task on this.”

Councillor Ivor Dixon added: “I feel for these two lads and if there’s something we can do as a town council, whether it be a petition or a letter to the chairman of the county council, then I would definitely back it.”

Mr Gregory and Mr Purvis believe the allegations against them originated from council employees and point to their dismissals as clear evidence that they were subject to a witch hunt.

They particularly point to a story which appeared in Express newspapers on January 27, 2013 which made unsubstantiated allegations about ‘so called secret gypsy graves’.

They have asked for the county council to request an independent investigation.

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