Family’s anguish after dad-of-seven buried in the wrong grave away from family plot

Clive Stephenson’s loved ones say they were assured his plot would be next to his mother’s in Handsworth Cemetery, yet he has been buried on the very edge of the vast Birmingham burial ground

Clive Stephenson’s family have hit out after he was buried in the wrong grave

The bereaved family of a dad-of-seven who died aged 50 have demanded an apology after he was buried in the wrong grave.

Clive Stephenson’s loved ones say they were assured his plot would be next to his mother’s in Handsworth Cemetery, yet he has been buried on the very edge of the vast Birmingham burial ground.

His sisters, Vivienne and Jean Honeyghan, say mourners were unaware of the change until Clive was placed in the ground on the day of his funeral. Then, it was too late to protest, Birmingham Live reports.

Vivienne said: “They could not have placed my brother farther from my mother if they tried. They’ve made him look like the black sheep of the family.”

To add to their anguish, father-of-seven Clive was placed in a plot so sodden, it was filling with water as the coffin was lowered into it, they say Birmingham City Council has met the family on-site in a bid to resolve the issue.

They have offered to exhume the body, at their own cost, and place it in the grave of another sister, Ionia Stephenson, who died only months after Clive, a painter and decorator from Northfield.

Clive’s family say they were assured he would be buried close to his mother’s grave



The local authority has told them it cannot put Clive, one of nine siblings, close to his mother Rita’s 40-year-old grave because that section of the cemetery is no longer used for burials.

But support worker Vivienne – a cousin of former boxing world champ Lloyd Honeyghan – alleges graves have been placed in the area since her brother’s funeral. Things have moved on since Clive’s death, from a brain tumor, in February 2020.

The grandmother of his three youngest children died and was buried close to him.

For those children’s sake, the family no longer want his body exhumed. They want the council to pay for a memorial stone on Clive’s grave – as an acknowledgment of mistakes made – and say sorry.

They are being supported by Bishop Desmond Jaddoo who conducted the funeral service at Handsworth’s New Life Wesleyan Church in March 2020.

For the bishop, the campaign is particularly poignant. Clive died in his arms after the cleric delivered the last rites. The dying man told Desmond in those final hours he wanted to be buried near his mother.

The family have voiced their upset after Clive was buried in the wrong place



The bishop has dubbed the council’s handling of the matter “shoddy” and “arrogant”.

He says the authority is no longer communicating with him or the family. Vivienne says she was too numbed by grief on the day of the funeral to fully comprehend her brother de ella was being buried in the wrong plot.

She said: “Clive’s last wish was to be buried near his mother and that was agreed. That was the plan. On the day of the funeral, it didn’t sink in, but I know now. I know one of my brothers asked, ‘why are we stopping here?’ On the day, grief does take over your mind, grief does blind you.

“If I’d known, then and there, it was the wrong place I would’ve stopped it in a split second. A lot of the family were totally distraught, but, at the time, what can you do?

“On the same day, I contacted the undertaker and said, ‘this is not what was agreed’. I was given an assurance they would look into it and, to use their words, ‘heads would roll’.”

Vivienne has claimed she later learned a decision was made on the day of the funeral to change plots: the one where Clive was intended to be interred had become badly waterlogged. Yet he was placed in a pool of a grave.

“Even the bishop asked if anything could be done to stop the water pouring in,” she said.

“We paid so much money for that serious. We are a close family. He is thousands from the rest of his family of him. His last wish of him has not been realized. The council messed up. We want them to take responsibility, we want an apology stating they have done this.”

Those sentiments are echoed by sister Jean.

The 56-year-old, from Handsworth, said: “I think this has been handled terribly. Now, the council don’t respond to our requests, they just blank us.

“I was too distracted on the day to notice what was going on, I just assumed it was the right spot. I had to be led away because I was so distressed I was passing out. We are not asking for money, we just want it sorted. Our brother is not in the right place. I’m so emotional about it, it has broken me down.”

Bishop Jaddoo is currently attempting to broker a solution. He told the Sunday Mercury: “I think the family have been treated shoddily, at no point were they told the grave was going to be moved.

“Things have moved on. They no longer want their brother moved, they don’t want to go through the trauma again. His final wish of him was to be buried as close as possible to his mother of him. They buried him on the edge of Handsworth Cemetery, it could not be farther from his mother’s grave.

“Birmingham City Council has failed to consult with the family, which shows arrogance by the council.”

A spokesman for the local authority told the Sunday Mercury: “Unfortunately, the request for the late Mr Stephenson to be buried as close to his mother’s grave as possible was not passed onto Handsworth Cemetery prior to the funeral.

“However, any request to locate a grave in a specific area cannot be guaranteed due to the uncertainty of ground conditions, and the paperwork which the family of the late Mr Stephenson signed, makes this clear.”

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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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