A heartbroken family, still coming to terms with the death of their mother – have suffered another bitter blow.

Lisa Bennett, of Mirehouse, in Whitehaven, lost her mum Joyce back in December and when she went to visit her grave this week, she was distraught at what she discovered.

Soil had been piled on top of the grave at Whitehaven Cemetery, with ornaments, flowers and lanterns moved as workmen dug a neighbouring grave.

“They had dug a grave beside my mam’s but scooped all her stuff off,” she said. “The soil was covering two graves and I had my kids with me and they started to cry because they couldn’t see my mam’s grave.”

But Susan Pringle, Copeland Council’s bereavement services development manager, said that access does have to be restricted to graves on occasion while excavating more.

She said: “We are sorry that Ms Bennett was upset. We were keen to look into her complaint – we received it, visited the grave, and got back to her all within the same day.

“When someone arranges a burial we urge them to look at the management rules on our website – they include details about how we may have to briefly restrict access to graves while excavating adjacent ones.”

Lisa had gone to the grave along with her brother Kevin Bennett and her children, Alfie-Lee, aged five, Archie-Ray, aged three and two-year-old Anika-Mae.

The family had recently bought flowers and a little plant pot, and there were also plaques and wreaths adorning the grave, all of which had been moved aside.

Lisa added: “It has been hard enough without seeing this. I know they were digging another grave but I didn’t think they would put all the soil over the top of this one.

“It has traumatised my brother and it has really affected him.”

Ms Pringle added that the fencing and soil on the grave was due to be removed by last night.

She said: “When we have to prepare a new grave, it often means adjacent graves can’t be accessed for a short time. The grave in question was inaccessible for two days, and our staff carefully moved the grave ornaments out of the way to keep them safe. Sadly the flowers on the grave were already decayed.

“If any evidence of the excavation remains it will be returned to its previous state within days.”