St Albans mother’s grief over burial bungle for her ‘Little Sue’
PUBLISHED: 12:06 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:06 19 January 2017
The distraught mother of a brave St Albans woman with a rare disorder, who died last year, has had her grief compounded by the burial of her daughter in the wrong place.
Sue Jones, otherwise known as Susan Browning – or ‘Little Sue’ as she was fondly called – died in tragic circumstances on August 13, 2016, aged 36.
The New Greens resident had a rare bone marrow failure disorder, Diamond Blackfan Anaemia (DBA), where patients fail to produce red blood cells properly, and she received hundreds of blood transfusions during her short life.
Despite her health problems and fragility, brave Sue took part in fundraising for charity DBA UK, for research into the condition for which there is no known cure.
Her mum, Lynn Jones, said that her death occurred following a ‘serious incident’ at University College Hospital in London, where she was put into a coma when given a sedative, after suffering a hypoglycaemic episode.
Lynn told the Herts Advertiser: “Sue was given a sedative to help her sleep, which put her into a coma. She suffered swelling on the brain, became confused, and she later died.”
The hospital has recently verbally apologised to Lynn.
Because of the way in which Sue died, it took over five weeks for her body to be returned to Lynn, who organised a special funeral procession, including a horse-drawn carriage, which took place in St Albans on September 20 last year.
However, Lynn explained, due to a ‘miscommunication’ between Co-op St Albans Funeralcare and the district council’s cemetery services, Sue was later buried in the wrong place at the London Road Cemetery.
Before her death, Sue had asked for a headstone to be placed at her grave.
But, as her cremated remains were mistakenly interred in the cemetery’s Garden of Rest section, available for the burial of cremated remains and where headstones cannot be placed, Sue’s wish was unfulfilled.
The mistake came to light during the actual burial of her ashes at the cemetery in Hatfield Road on October 31. Lynn said she ‘burst into tears’ when, surrounded by friends and family waiting to throw petals into a grave, she was told by cemetery staff that it was not possible, as they were unaware of her instructions to the Co-op, and thus no gravesite had been prepared.
After the mistake came to light, a request had to be put into the Secretary of State to reinter Sue’s remains.
The official licence for the removal of the ashes has now been granted, and the remains will be reinterred within the burial ground tomorrow (Friday), five months after Sue’s death.
A tearful Lynn told the Herts Advertiser that all she wants is for her daughter to be left to rest in peace. She has engaged a different firm to engrave Sue’s headstone, which will be placed at a later date.
Lynn said: “Sue really wanted a headstone – she loved her own space. She wouldn’t have been happy lying in a small space. The Co-op haven’t come back to me since this happened, and I don’t want to talk to them. But I’m aghast they haven’t even bothered to phone me to see how they could have put it right.
“I have had to pay for the exhumation of the ashes. I’m just praying that on Friday nothing else goes wrong.”
A spokeswoman for Co-op Funeralcare said: “We’re truly sorry to hear about Ms Jones’s experience.
“We work hard to fulfil families’ wishes and having now been made aware of Ms Jones’s concerns, have made direct contact with the cemetery to investigate this fully, and assist in any way we can.”
Debbi White, head of community services at the council, said: “We are sorry to hear about the additional stress suffered by Sue Browning’s family.
“Our cemetery team was not given the correct information about the burial arrangements. However we did not wish to add to the family’s distress and we offered them a practical solution. In view of the upset they have endured, we have waived the interment fee.”