Sacked Northumberland gravediggers call for release of council audit

Gravediggers who were sacked amid a series of apparent irregularities are calling for a report to be released which they say will clear their names

Malcolm Purvis, Heather Purvis, Carol Gregory and Chris Gregory
Malcolm Purvis, Heather Purvis, Carol Gregory and Chris Gregory

Gravediggers who were sacked amid a series of irregularities at two cemeteries have called on their former bosses to release a report which they say will clear their names.

Chris Gregory and Malcolm Purvis, who worked at cemeteries in Berwick, were suspended and eventually sacked by Northumberland County Council after the authority discovered a number of apparent “irregularities” at the two sites in the town.

The pair were also arrested after their boss claimed they had attacked her and pushed her into a open grave, although police took no further action.

The men deny any wrongdoing and say there is no evidence against them.

They are now calling on the council to release an independent audit of the two cemeteries hey say they were promised sight of at the beginning of February and which they believe will exonerate them.

The men, who worked at North Road and Tweedmouth cemeteries, were arrested in October 2010 amid allegations they assaulted their manager and pushed her into an open grave at the Tweedmouth cemetery.

In November 2012, the county council revealed that “problems” had been suspected at the two cemeteries after the authority took over management of the sites from the now defunct Berwick Borough Council in 2009. The probe revealed there could be around 30 cases at the cemeteries 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.

Mr Gregory and Mr Purvis deny all allegations, but have since been sacked.

Their corner is being fought by Georgie Hill, deputy mayor of Berwick, who said: “It’s absolutely paramount that the council release this report which will finally set out the facts about the unfounded allegations of unlawful activity in the town’s cemeteries. Both Chris and Malcolm and their families have had to live with these allegations.

“The council needs to do the decent thing and put the facts into the public domain. It’s a question of transparency.”

A county council spokesman said the authority is to release the audit findings about the cemetery “in the near future.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer