Leicester Mercury

Mum’s anguish over items moved for health and safety


- By NICK DAWSON nicholas.dawson@reachplc.com

THE family of a woman who died in her 20s of ovarian cancer were distraught to discover that part of her grave decoration­s had been removed by cemetery groundkeep­ers.

Kerry Sharman said she has struggled to sleep since visiting her daughter Gemma’s graveside in Barwell Cemetery to find several items had been removed.

Gemma died in 2012, aged 27. Previously there was an area in front of her headstone which was paved over with gravel and decorated with pots of flowers and other ornaments, bordered by a small fence.

Ms Sharman says she visited the cemetery earlier this month to find the items had been taken away.

She said: “I’m still struggling with Gemma’s death, even after all this time.

“This has knocked me straight back. There was no warning, but there was nothing there when I went down.”

She says she returned the next day and was given the items in a bag and was told by groundsmen that the ornaments had been removed so they could safely mow the grass.

They said the gravel was deemed to be a health and safety hazard as the stones could fly up at the workers.

A spokeswoma­n for Barwell Parish Council, which runs the cemetery, said that a policy of no ornaments and other items being allowed around headstones had been in place for many years, predating the council taking control of it in 2007.

She said: “We have been asking people to remove them themselves.

“We understand it’s very sensitive, but it’s no use having the rules and then not implementi­ng them.”

Any items removed by the council are placed in labelled bags, which are then placed inside a chapel on the site.

The council has said that more than 30 other families have been asked to remove ornaments, and have done so without any complaints, and that letters have been sent out since 2017 asking for the items to be removed.

Ms Sharman, however, claims that she has never received a letter and that she was granted permission by the council to install the gravel area in 2012, when Gemma was buried there.

Signs have also been put on graves giving notice that items will be removed.

The council said the policy is in place for the safety of all users of the cemetery and to prevent the headstones being damaged.

The spokeswoma­n said that the policy was in place for maintenanc­e and health and safety reason and to protect workers mowing the grass.

Gemma died of ovarian cancer, only a year after her diagnosis.

The family has raised thousands of pounds for Target Ovarian Cancer since her death.

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 ??  ?? BEFORE AND AFTER: Gemma Spendley’s grave in Barwell cemetery
BEFORE AND AFTER: Gemma Spendley’s grave in Barwell cemetery

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