Gipsy great-grandfather’s body could be exhumed because relatives of Muslim in neighbouring plot don’t want him buried next to an unbeliever
- Shadrack Smith, 89, buried in multi-faith cemetery after death in January
- Bereft family had paid £2,500 to buy three plots side-by-side at cemetery
- Family who own neighbouring plot complained Mr Smith was not Muslim
- Council then asked to erect hedge in another of the family’s plots as barrier
- But family refused and vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to stop exhumation
- Council will decide tomorrow if Mr Smith should be moved to new plot at Burbage cemetery
A gipsy great-grandfather’s body could be exhumed because the relatives of a Muslim man buried in the neighbouring plot have complained that he is an unbeliever.
Shadrack Smith, 89, from Leicester, who was a popular figure in the Romany gipsy community, died on January 13 after breaking his hip on New Year’s Eve and developing pneumonia.
His bereft family paid £2,500 for three plots at the multi-faith cemetery in Lychgate Lane Cemetery, Burbage.
After a huge traditional Romany funeral with more than 400 people, they buried him with his grave facing towards his home – also a Romany tradition.
But they were left shocked when a Muslim family who owned a plot next to Mr Smith’s grave complained to the council about their relative being buried next to a ‘non-believer’.
Just two weeks after his funeral, which was one of the largest ever held at the cemetery, the family have been warned Mr Smith’s grave may have to be moved.
The local council, who run the award-winning cemetery, will meet tomorrow to decide whether Mr Smith’s grave will be exhumed and moved to another area of the cemetery.
His distraught family, which includes eight children, 25 grandchildren and 40 great grandchildren, have now vowed to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to stop any exhumation taking place.
His daughter-in-law, Tracey Smith, 46, said: ‘This whole thing has devastated our family.
‘We were told when we bought the plots that it was a multi-faith cemetery and it is, but the council has been so unsupportive.
‘I feel for the Muslim family because they obviously thought they were going to only have other Muslim families buried around them, but that’s not our fault, or our mistake.
‘We have been in the right, and yet the council has tried to bend over backwards to please the Muslim family.’
She added: ‘We have been told we might have to exhume Shady if the council decide to side with the Muslim family.
‘My mother-in-law found a plot which faced their home, which is a Romany tradition, and it was perfect.
‘So we paid, but to then have the council trying to get us to move when we have done nothing wrong, it’s disgusting. We have not been able to grieve because of all this drama, and it’s been awful.’
Four days before the funeral, Burbage Parish Council received a complaint from the Muslim family who own the neighbouring plot.
The principal officer of the council wrote to Mr Smith’s family and asked if they would consider moving Mr Smith to an alternative plot.
The council also asked if it could buy one of their three empty plots inbetween the two graves to plant a hedge as a separation.
But Mrs Smith, from Aston Firs, Leicester, added: ‘She said we should find another site but she did not even apologise to us.
‘Then our undertaker phoned saying the she had been on the phone to them to see if they could use one of our plots to plant a hedge as a kind of barrier. But the bodies will still be together six feet underground so what is the point?
‘I just feel they should have stuck to the rules (being a multi-faith cemetery) from the beginning, instead of deeply upsetting us just to please the Muslim community.
‘The council received our payment through the undertakers, but they haven’t put our cheque through yet for some reason.
‘There is no way Shady will be exhumed, if they suggest it we will take them to the highest court in the land. We will fight tooth and nail to stop the grave being dug up.’
On the Burbage Parish Council website, a document titled ‘Burbage Cemetery: Regulations and Management Rules’ makes no mention of segregation or separate areas based on religion.
Another council leaflet regarding the cemetery states: ‘So that people of all denominations can use Burbage Cemetery, the graveyard ground at Lychgate Lane is unconsecrated.’
Chairman of the parish council, Councillor Richard Flemming, said: ‘Burbage Parish Council provides an award-winning cemetery for the benefit of the whole community.
‘Unfortunately the parish council has recently received representation from two families regarding the allocation of adjacent grave plots within Burbage Cemetery.
‘The parish council is sympathetic to the feelings of both families concerned and is committed to working with the relatives and the wider community to reach an amicable and acceptable solution.’
Mr Smith, who always wore a trilby hat, had lived in an official gipsy camp in Aston Firs, Leicester, for 20 years.
More than 400 family and friends paid their respects to the retired horse trainer at his funeral on January 30.