Bodies could be exhumed at Ayr cemetery after serious leakage as relatives fear loved ones ‘floating in water’

Distraught families fear their beloved relatives are floating in 6ft of water at South Ayrshire’s largest burial ground – where bodies may have to be exhumed.

Tormented relatives are demanding answers after a council probe failed to inspect their loved ones’ graves at Ayr Cemetery.

Despite handing over permission to South Ayrshire Council for their loved ones’ graves to be inspected for ‘water ingress’, their graves remain unchecked.

It is understood that families whose loved ones’ graves are in double lairs will face having to exhume them in order for further inspections to be carried out.

It was confirmed last week that all inspected graves were found to have water leaking into them.

Scores of graves were cut off between January 10 and January 31 for the investigation to take place.

But some families who were written to ask for their permission for their loved ones’ resting place to be examined have been left in the dark – with only 10 checked for flooding.

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Ayrshire Live has spoken to two separate families, who each signed over permission for their loved ones grave to be drilled into to check for water ingress, and seen letters sent.

But as the news filtered through that inspected graves were leaking, those families were met with a wall of silence with no clarity of when their graves will be checked or even if they will be checked.

Chambers that were supposed to be ‘airtight’ and ‘watertight’ were confirmed to have water ingress as council bosses’ worst fears were confirmed.

Cemetery bosses Fiona Ross and Kenny Dalrymple wrote to families with relatives buried in the extension of the graveyard stating that an initial 10 graves would be inspected.

On Monday, after three weeks being shut off from visiting their loved ones graveside, those families were told it could be another four weeks before they have answers with samples taken from graves being sent away.

A furious uncle has told how his whole family is desperate for answers after his nephew’s grave was left uninspected.

Andrew Stevenson’s nephew Jamie Kennedy passed away, aged 46, and was laid to rest at the cemetery extension in 2020.

He was joined by his heartbroken family; Jamie’s mom Maureen Kennedy, 65; Jamie’s sister Debbie Kennedy, 41; Danielle Kennedy, 29, daughter of Jamie Kennedy, and his uncle Stevie McDonald, 62.

Andrew Stevenson is worried
Andrew Stevenson is worried

The family stood by Jamie’s grave side as they vowed to get the truth from council chiefs.

Andrew, 61, old Ayrshire Live: “This has been an absolute shambles. We are so gutted and angry.

“We are hearing they are going to have to take coffins out and put them in the old part of the graveyard. They have only inspected 10 bass in just three weeks.

“The main question is why ask families for permission to inspect graves if they aren’t going to check it?

“The fact of the matter is my nephew could be lying in 6ft of water; to think your loved one is in that position is a disgrace. My sister is getting more and more depressed by the thought of her boy of her lying in water.

“No one is going to let this lie, this won’t be the end of it. The council has made a complete mess of it.”

A grieving daughter says the ordeal her family is going through has reopened painful wounds.

Ayr mum Danielle Burns, 30, laid her dad Joseph Burns to rest in 2019.

Now she is horrified at the prospect of his body having to be exhumed from the flooded chamber after being told she will have to wait for weeks to learn his fate.

Danielle said: “We have these horrible images in our head about what is in there and it shouldn’t be the case.

Distraught family returned to Jamie Kennedy's graveside
Distraught family returned to Jamie Kennedy’s graveside

“All we’ve heard is stories going around but the council have been hiding from us.

“After we were asked if they could drill a hole into the grave we thought we would have got the right answers.

“It has opened up wounds. It’s like reliving his death from him all over again.

Danielle’s brother John Burns added: “It’s very disturbing and macabre to even think about the conditions of the burial plots, never mind the frustration of the council’s lack of transparency with grieving families and complete lack of accountability.

“It’s hard enough to grieve our dad without having all sorts of images put in our head due to the council’s lack of clarity. So irresponsible and shows a clear incompetence.”

Derek Daniel, who has both his mum and his dad buried in a plot at the fenced-up extension, is demanding their resting place be inspected after not being offered to have his parents’ graves checked.

I have told Ayrshire Live: “If one has water leaking into it, they all will be the same.”

Derek has told how he heard running water when visiting the grave and now fears his dad’s ashes which were buried beside his mum could have “washed away.”

He added: “I’d want the tomb open to see physically myself to see if it would be dry. Until that happens I won’t believe a word from the council.”

A South Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “‘Following an investigation of burial chambers at Ayr Cemetery extension, we can confirm that water ingress has been found in the 10 chambers that were inspected. The water found within the inspected chambers has been removed and the chambers have been sealed.

“The contractor had initially scheduled for 30 chamber inspections in the three-week period, however, individual inspections took much longer than anticipated.

“As water was found in the first few chambers, the contractor undertook detailed investigatory works to determine the cause of water ingress.

“The cause of the water ingress is still being investigated and we are waiting on a report from the specialists who carried out the investigation.

“Decisions on any necessary further action will be taken when we receive the reports and know the cause of the water ingress.

“These chambers were installed by external contractors on the basis that they were watertight and airtight, and all appropriate permissions were obtained to satisfy statutory requirements.

“We have been in regular contact with affected lair owners and will continue to liaise with them directly throughout.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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