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Retired headmaster’s body exhumed days after being buried by wrong family


The body of a retired headmaster had to be exhumed nine days after he was buried by the wrong family due to a ‘terrible’ mortuary mix-up.

According to the Sun, undertakers arrived at a hospital mortuary to collect Jimmy McDonald, 90, but they ended up taking John Hetford, 89, who had died two days earlier.

Mr Hetford, an Oxford graduate who had taught across the UK before becoming a headmaster in Carlisle, was laid to rest at St Mary’s Church near Carlisle, Cumbria, by his family who had no idea that they had the wrong body.

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The mistake was reportedly discovered after Cumberland Infirmary called the undertakers to ask when they would come to collect Mr. Hetford for his cremation.

After he was exhumed, Mr Hetford was cremated in Carlisle.

Mr McDonald, who lived with his wife Mary before he died has since been buried at the church in his home village of Rockcliffe, Cumbria.

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A spokesman for North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation NHS Trust said an investigation is underway into what went wrong.

They said: ‘We are supporting the funeral directors to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families at what is already a difficult time.

“We are undertaking an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and will share the findings with the families once this is complete.”

A spokesman for the funeral director said: ‘Our sympathy goes out to the families involved.

“Our family have been funeral directors for more than 150 years and nothing like this has happened before.

“Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong. We handed in paperwork for the man whose body we believed we were collecting.

“There are protocols to ensure we have who we think we have. We didn’t realise we had another person’s body. We feel for the families.”