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INSCRIPTION ON COFFIN 'WAS written in felt-tip pen' Catalogue of complaints revealed as Colour My Funeral closure leaves many heartbroken families out of pocket.

Byline: EXCLUSIVE MIKE LOCKLEY Staff Reporter mike.lockley@trinitymirror.com

ONE of the Midlands' bestknown funeral directors has closed, leaving heartbroken families thousands of pounds out of pocket and protesting they've been RIP-ped off.

Colour My Funeral - a business that specialised in wacky and way-out send-offs - is now dead and buried.

But customers who ploughed cash into the firm's bespoke funeral packages are seeing red over the sudden demise.

For them, a solicitors' letter, pinned to the front of the company's closed office in Shirley, a leafy West Midlands suburb, was the final nail in the coffin.

It confirms that Colour My Funeral has ceased to trade. The business' other branch, in nearby Solihull, has also shut down.

One woman alone - frail 81-year-old Rachel Lanza - is desperately attempt-ing to claw back more than PS3,000 she claims she paid in 2015 for her own planned funeral package.

Our investigation has also uncovered allegations of services that were beyond shambolic.

The family of Beatrice Evans has approached the Sunday Mercury with a catalogue of complaints following the pensioner's August burial at Lodge Hill Cemetery, Selly Oak.

They asked for an ermine white coffin with a plaque. They say the casket had been poorly hand-painted and the plaque's inscription was written in felttipped pen.

Loved ones were reduced to tears as, they claim, rain washed away the words.

Action Fraud, a government body dedicated to investigating alleged sharp practice, yesterday confirmed it has received complaints.

The precise number of people affected by Colour My Funeral's sudden closure is not yet known but a social media site set up by those who say they have been badly let down features numerous tales of despair. Colour My Funeral's sudden fall from grace is dramatic. The company's unblemished 10-year history is pitted with fun, frothy tales of bizarre casket creations.

The company offered a cortege of stretch VW Beetles, a motorcycle sidecar adapted for coffins - and a lift to the church for the deceased in a vintage lorry.

One family paid a staggering PS27,000 for a farewell that included two Rolls Royce hearses and eight 'Roller' limos.

Caskets were equally outrageous, ranging from leopard print to footballthemed. In 2014, Colour My Funeral even offered a full World Cup send-off, with a bust of then England manager Roy Hodgson or Wayne Rooney on the coffin lid.

Those football fans who wanted to be sent to their maker by Colour My Funeral didn't think for one minute that the seemingly thriving company's unique role in the funeral business would be all over in three years.

It is now. Services were also fun affairs. Colour My Funeral once famously played disco classic Burn Baby Burn as the exit music at a cremation.

A spokesman said at the time: "We provide what people want. If they want to dance around the casket and play disco music they can have it. If they want 'traditional' they can have it. We are trying to make it more light-hearted. We are trying to show there is more choice than a black car and drab coffin."

For those who have accused the firm of turning funerals into a farce, the laughter stopped this week when they spotted legal notices on both Colour My Funeral outlets.

An announcement on the Companies House website, dated October 31, states: "The Registrar of Companies gives notice that, unless cause is shown to the contrary, at the expiration of two months from the above date, the name of Colour My Funeral (Solihull) Limited will be struck off the register and the company will be dissolved.

"Upon dissolution, all properties and rights vested in, or held in trust for, the company are deemed to be bona vacantia and accordingly will belong to the crown."

Companies House lists Adam Blake as director. Mr Blake is the fiance of Aimee Hall, former manager of Colour My Funeral's Solihull branch and daughter of business founder John Hall.

Complainants we spoke to stressed that they dealt directly with Aimee.

Rachel Lanza, from Hall Green, Birmingham, liaised with a legitimate funeral planning service over her own service with Colour My Funeral, which she wanted to be "as colourful as possible".

She is now devastated and claims she is seriously out of pocket. She can only hope the funeral planners involved will reimburse her, but has received no guarantee.

For the distraught widow, alarm bells rang this week when she spotted the company's closed Shirley parlour after tending her husband's plot at nearby Robin Hood cemetery.

Her family's attempts to contact Colour My Funeral owners have failed. They have now contacted police and Action Fraud.

Furious grand-daughter Charlotte Hopwood said: "My nan is distressed and devastated. And she is not the only one.

"This was money left by grandfather specifically for the funeral. She wanted something bright and colourful to match her personality.

"She is now ashen-faced and depressed. She has been emotionally affected because the whole thing has made her question herself. She felt stupid, but so many people coming forward and offering support has lifted her spirits. It shows there are good people out there."

Charlotte has now set up a Facebook site for others who claim to have been left in the lurch, and which has already received a number of complaints.

"If nothing else, this is disrespecting the dead," she fumes.

FUNERAL 'A CATASTOPHE' THE allegations made by the family of Beatrice Evans are, frankly, harrowing.

But at least they say they received a PS2,150 refund from the PS7,356 they paid for the funeral, dubbed a catastrophe.

Grand-daughter Siobhan Burns claims: || Relatives who attended the funeral parlour to pay their last respects to Beatrice found her spread on a table, not a coffin. Bizarrely, staff blamed a power cut.

| A white coffin was paid for. They got a DIY white-washed casket.

| They asked for an inscribed plaque, but were shocked to see the epitaph scrawled in felt-tipped pen which washed away in the day's drizzle.

"To make matters worse, Aimee Hall was dressed in a bright, flowery dress that was more suited to a nightclub," says Siobhan.

"The day was an absolute shambles. We got a refund, but the day has been lost forever."

Complaints made to Action Fraud THE Sunday Mercury confronted Colour My Funeral director Adam Blake, who also fronts a business called AdVans - Man With A Van.

"Nothing to do with me, mate," he said. "I just work there."

When we pointed out that Mr Blake is listed as director, the boss groaned loudly and put the phone down.

Later, he was a little more forthcoming.

"Do you know the facts or are you just going on what people are telling you?" he asked.

"It's up to a judge to judge me, not you. You're just after a story.

"You're getting nothing out of me, I'll just keep putting the phone down."

A spokesman for West Midlands Police confirmed that the force had received a complaint, but advised the individual to contact Action Fraud.

Action Fraud said they have been contacted within the last few days, but the information has yet to be processed.

At least one complaint has also been made to Birmingham Trading Standards.

But a spokesman told the Sunday Mercury that legislation prevents the body from either confirming or denying that information.

?INDUSTRY REGULATOR SHOCKED & SADDENED BY CLAIMS - PAGE 6

If they want to dance around the casket and play disco music they can have it

CAPTION(S):

| Rachel Lanza and granddaughter Charlotte Hopwood

| Beatrice Evans

| The letter stuck to the door where Colour My Funeral used to trade in Shirley
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 5, 2017
Words:1269
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