Bones find shock for family in graveyard

A mother and daughter were shocked to discover human bones poking out of the grave of a recently buried relative.

Wednesday, 30th August 2017, 3:58 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 1:24 pm
Elaine Mace pictured by her parents grave with the bones that she found on the surface

Elaine Mace and daughter Jenny found fragments of a skull and backbone when they tended the graves of Elaine’s parents, Irene and Vincent Northage, in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church Cuckney.

The family have been reassured by church officials that the bones are almost definitely from an unmarked ancient burial at the historic church, thought once to have been the scene of an ancient medieval battle.

But the family still do not have conclusive proof that the bones do not belong to Mr Northage, who was buried in the same plot in 1978.

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Elaine Mace pictured by her parents grave with the bones that she found on the surface

Elaine, of Nether Langwith, said: “When they buried my mum they may have disturbed bones by mistake and did not bury them properly.

“We have got to draw a line under it. Hopefully it is not my dad.”

Elaine said “We buried my mum in November and the grave had a lump on it. When I went to flatten it, I found human bones under the surface.”

Because of history surrounding the church, she thought they might be ancient bones, but had taken them to the police for analysis.

Elaine Mace pictured by her parents grave with the bones that she found on the surface

She said Mansfield police told her forensic tests had confirmed they were human, but they had not done a definitive age test on them.

She said: “I was really upset and was worried that the bones could belong to my dad Vincent, who was buried in the same plot in 1978.”

The only definitive way of settling the matter would be a DNA test on the bones.

Brian Little, a reader at St Mary’s, said the chance that the bones were the remains of Elaine’s father were “virtually nil”.

He said: “A professional grave digger would not have dug into the coffin and a heavy oak coffin would have lasted quite some while before it decayed.

“The infill was left sufficiently to allow the grave to sink to its original level, which could possibly take more than a year – and should have been left. The bones should not have been removed. They should have been left in situ so we could make a record of them and reinter them.

“The graveyard in an ancient church like St Mary’s will have been buried in several times – the bones could be 400 or 600 years old. If a grave digger finds old bones, as can often happen, he will reinter them in situ.

“I can understand there was some upset and I am not trying to suggest there is any blame around the situation.”

The police officer in charge of the case was unavailable for comment as your Chad went to press.