HOSPITAL chiefs in Carlisle have launched an investigation after a mix-up with bodies led to a family unwittingly having a funeral service for the wrong person.

One of the two elderly men involved was mistakenly buried at St Mary’s Church in Rockcliffe village, near Carlisle. The service was on Monday, July 6.

Along with everybody else at the funeral, mourners from the man’s family had no idea the body in the coffin that was buried was actually that of a complete stranger.

The elderly man who was buried that day was in fact another north Cumbrian pensioner, just a year younger than the man thought to be in the coffin.

The mistake allegedly came to light on July 7 when staff at the mortuary of Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary contacted George Hudson & Sons Funeral Directors on Wigton Road, Carlisle, and asked when the body of the man meant to be buried at Rockcliffe would be collected.

The buried man then had to be exhumed, though this did not happen until July 15, nine days after the funeral.

That man should have been cremated on July 13. But due to the mix-up, the cremation was carried out a week later at Carlisle Crematorium on Monday, July 20, say sources.

Meanwhile, the man who should have been buried at Rockcliffe was interred in the right grave in St Mary’s graveyard on the day of the exhumation.

A spokeswoman for North Cumbria Integrated Care Foundation NHS Trust said an investigation is underway into what went wrong. This will involve speaking to mortuary staff.

She added: “We are supporting the funeral directors to establish the circumstances surrounding the incident and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families at what is already a difficult time.”

“We are undertaking an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and will share the findings with the families once this is complete.”

A spokesman for the funeral director said: “Our sympathy goes out to the families involved. Our family have been funeral directors for more than 150 years and nothing like this has happened before.

“Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong. We handed in paperwork for the man whose body we believed we were collecting. There are protocols to ensure we have who we think we have.

“We didn’t realise we had another person’s body. We feel for the families.” All exhumations must be approved by the Home Office, a process that can take several days.