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Another family has my baby's grave... Now there's no trace of his memorial 46 years on, says broken-hearted mum Sylvia.


A BROKEN-HEARTED mother is fighting an eight-year battle to grieve for her son - after the grave in which he was buried was sold on to another family.

Sylvia Manners, from Brotton, lived through every mother's worst nightmare back in 1962 when her firstborn son Peter died at just a day old.

Peter was buried in Skelton Cemetery in a public grave, where Sylvia says a headstone was erected in memory of his short life.

But today, there is no trace of his gravestone in the cemetery, and instead a headstone to two other children marks the place that Peter was buried.

For the last eight years, Sylvia, 66, has been battling with Redcar and Cleveland Council for an explanation, as well as permission to erect some kind of a memorial on her son's grave.

But due to the plot now being owned by another family, Sylvia has been repeatedly told that she is "not permitted to do this".

Instead the council has offered to "waive the cost" of "an alternative grave" where she can remember her son.

However, the Evening Gazette can reveal that the council has never made any attempts to contact the owner of the grave, despite them living in Skelton.

The council claims this is due to not having owner's contact details, but it took less than an hour for a Gazette reporter to trace the woman - who was completely unaware of the traumatic battle which has been ongoing since 2001.

But after initially expressing her horror at the situation, the woman's daughter later contacted the Gazette saying they did not wish to make any comment.

Sylvia said: "I don't wish her (the owner of the grave) or her children any harm whatsoever, but surely she shouldn't wish me any either.

"My baby means as much to me as her children must mean to her.

There's never been any closure."

In a letter to Sylvia's solicitor back in 2002, R J Frankland, from Redcar and Cleveland Council, explained: "Because of the nature of the burial, the public plot was divided into two with your client's son in one half of the plot and the other half left unused for a similar burial at a later date.

"It appears that (name deleted) was buried in the remaining half of the plot on December 19, 1962.

The council's records then indicate that the mother of (name deleted) acquired an exclusive right of burial in the whole of the plot."

Sylvia said: "I have basically been told to get lost and leave it alone.

The council has agreed to give me another grave, but no matter how hard I try to accept it, I can't because he's not there."

She added: "I want him exhumed, but the council say they can't.

"I left a bouquet of flowers there and they said it would have to move. I'm devastated."

Letters were still being exchanged in January this year, when the council's head of customer service and libraries Carol McIntosh explained: "Exhumation would be difficult as permission is required from the Home Office, and probably also pointless due to the time that has elapsed."

Peter was buried in the cemetery on December 13, 1962. Sylvia recalls a headstone being put on the grave in 1963, as she left the area to start a new life in Berkshire.

Living in Cavisham, Sylvia was only able to visit the grave when she came back up north to stay with her parents.

But on a return visit in 1982, Sylvia was shocked to find that the gravestone had disappeared.

She recalled: "The cemetery officer said 'I'm sorry, some yobbos have nicked your headstone.' He said he remembered it and took me to where it was."

In 1990, Sylvia made the decision to move back to East Cleveland.

It was in 2001 that she noticed a new headstone had been erected at the grave.

Sylvia said: "I had to go and see a solicitor because they just wouldn't give me any answers, but I know Peter was put in that grave because I was there."

She added: "So I said what have you done with my baby? You can't sell it with him in it."

I left a bouquet of flowers there and they said it would have to move. I'm devastated - Sylvia Manners, left, and the items she was asked to move from the plot above, in Skelton Cemetery, main picture Main picture by PETER BENN
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Mar 31, 2009
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