By Toby Porter and Fiona Peters
A grandmother’s coffin has been shattered and one of her murdered grandchildren’s remains allegedly lost by a funeral firm.
The incident has heaped misery upon Mary Adekoya, who had hoped to unite her mum, Judith, and her tragic children in one grave at South London Crematorium in Streatham Vale.
She has fought for almost three years for an apology from the company, Dignity, and for compensation.
She had wanted her mother to be buried with her late father, Emmanuel, and her three children – murdered in 1984 by her abusive husband Rodney Taylor.
However Emmanuel’s grave was too small for any extra bodies to be included.
Therefore Judith, who died in 2017, was buried in a separate plot, to which the other family members were due to be moved.
Instead, there have been a series of problems in uniting their remains, which ended with her mother’s casket being decimated and, she claims, one of the urns lost after being exhumed.
But it is not known which urn was lost – either Taylor’s or one of his victims, little twins Wayne and Wesley, aged two, and their older sister Jasmine, three.
Emmanuel died in 1976 aged just 48 and was buried at the crematorium in Rowan Road, Norbury.
Her then-husband, Taylor, 25, set fire to their Frensham Drive, New Addington home in 1984, killing himself and their three children. An inquest recorded a verdict of suicide and triple murder.
The urns of the children and Taylor were buried in Emanuel Adekoya’s grave.
The family was also told in 2017 that the 40-year lease for his plot had expired – they had not been notified or given the chance to extend the lease. As the new owners of the cemetery, Dignity agreed as a good will gesture to make it a perpetuity lease – and to pay for a new headstone.
The firm disputes having lost any of the urns – it claims the family was not sure how many there were.
Then 18 months later, she was instead moved to her late husband’s grave – and the family say they still do not understand why as they were led to believe the plot was to small.
Judith’s body was now in a standard plain and simple coffin – not the elaborate oak carved coffin she had been laid to rest in. Dignity claims it had decayed naturally in 18 months – although Emmanuel’s, which was 50 years old, had not.
Sentimental family gifts, family letters to Judith and drawings buried in her casket, were never recovered.
Mary, from Coulsdon, who works at Guy’s & St Thomas’s NHS Trust, said: “Dignity need to be accountable for their mistakes and the distress they have caused.
“Mum could have had a good life if dad had not died so young. She had to do two jobs to bring us up. I wanted her reunited with my children – to be their guardian. My twins and Jasmine died together – they should be resting together.
“Instead, it is like my mum has been thrown out with the rubbish. A dog would have been given more dignity. She was so hygienic in her life – it is despicable.
“I have good days and bad days. But I try not to dwell on it too much. It is hard to move on.”
David, from Dunoon Road, Honor Oak, said: “Mum worked so hard all her life, leaving her wealthy family in Nigeria. She would not have tolerated this catalogue of errors. We do not even know why she was moved, when we wanted our father to be.
“Our mum did not want Mr Taylor buried with his victims but agreed at the time in 1984 because Mary was in such a state, as you can imagine.
“We wanted our dad buried in our mum’s grave with the children – not the other way around. No one has explained why this was done instead.
“We believe the diggers who exhumed mum were not briefed properly and damaged our mum’s coffin and lost one of Mary’s children’s urns. They have basically lost a dead body.
“Mary would have gone to prison to save them from being killed by their father. They would be grown up with their own children by now.
“I put a cap for my company, Brighter Head, in our mum’s coffin because she adored it and wanted so much for us to be successful. There is no sign of it.”
Steve Gant, Director of The Crematorium and Memorial Group, part of Dignity, said: “We are deeply sorry that we have failed to meet the high standards we set ourselves and that a bereaved family has the right to expect.
“We should have kept the family informed at every stage whilst managing their expectations regarding the complexity and duration of the exhumation process.
“All the exhumations were carried out in accordance with the grave owner’s written instructions and the costs have been covered by us. We’ve also offered to provide a headstone at no cost to the family.
“We would like to continue our discussions with the family to help them find a resolution. We have already assisted with the legal paperwork to permit the joint-ownership of the grave by the daughters, and this will aid the facilitation of any future decisions they wish to make.”
Pictured: Wayne, Jasmine and Wesley Taylor before they were murdered by their father Rodney
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