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Gravediggers demand apology from council

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.

A bid to win a council apology for two former Berwick gravediggers sacked for gross misconduct has been launched.

Chris Gregory and Malcolm Purvis were dismissed from their jobs by Northumberland County Council in 2011.

The pair were accused of a series of crimes including burying people in the wrong graves, taking bungs to unlawfully bury members of the travelling community and assaulting their ex-boss Debbie Mowett.

A major investigation of cemetery management subsequently came up with no evidence to back up the claims.

Now, a campaign calling for an independent investigation into the damaging publicity which surrounded ‘The Berwick Two’ has been launched

Mr Gregory and Mr Purvis believe the allegations 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 the Express newspapers on January 27, 2013 which made unsubstantiated allegations about ‘so called secret gypsy graves’.

Georgina Hill, campaign co-ordinator, has written to Sir Alan Beith and other parliamentary hopefuls to ask for their backing.

However, her attempt to put the issue to the council’s north area committee on Monday night was rebuffed.

She said: “The county council has not been fair with Chris and Malcolm and have held them to a different standard than other staff who have made unsubstantiated allegations against both of them.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise that the county council is engaged in trying to ‘cover up’ their involvement but I expected better of elected members.

“Councillor Stephen Bridgett claims that the question tabled for the north area committee ‘involves potential disclosure of exempt material’ yet we are pointing to stories in national newspapers which raise serious questions about the involvement of county council officers and elected members in a series of stories which brought the council into disrepute.

“It’s time the county council stopped trying to cover up the actions of employees and elected members and apologise to Chris and Malcolm for tarnishing their reputations.

“I believe this may amount to maladministration on the part of the council and we’ll fight on until we see the evidence put in front of an independent investigation.”

A council spokesman said: “This would not be the correct forum to raise these kind of allegations. While we can’t talk about individual disciplinary cases for legal reasons, it’s important to point out the disciplinary processes in this matter considered a number of serious issues and we’re satisfied the outcome of the hearings and the subsequent appeals still stand.”

 

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