Rector sorry for ashes mistake

Mourners left looking at hole in the ground.

The Rector of Honiton has apologised after she forgot to turn up to lead prayers for the interment of a man’s ashes.

Widow Carol Austin, 80, says she and almost 40 mourners were left looking at a hole in the ground at St Michael’s Churchyard for 45 minutes before the event was called off.

Efforts by undertaker Paul Layzell failed to locate the Reverend Prebendary Sue Roberts so the service, for former Metropolitan Police officer and hotelier Bill Austin, was eventually rescheduled for the next day - but, by then, some of the mourners had left Honiton to catch planes home.

Miss Roberts told the Midweek Herald: “I am very sorry and apologised to Mrs Austin as soon as I realised my mistake and made up for my error by carrying out the service the next day.”

Mrs Austin, whose husband died in April last year aged 86, said she arranged the interment with the rector six months in advance to coincide with her 80th birthday.

“I checked two weeks before and the undertaker checked a week before,” she said.

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“My elder daughter and her husband, who live in Houston, Texas, and my younger daughter, who lives in Lyon, France, had travelled to Honiton for the service.

“Also there were two of my granddaughters, who live in Canada.

“We waited for over 45 minutes in the cold and I felt dreadful.

“The church door was locked, so we were left staring at a hole in the ground. I felt numb.

“I was shocked and cold.”

Former nurse Mrs Austin, a three times heart attack victim, had prepared a cold buffet for the mourners and an evening meal at her home in Monmouth Way, Honiton.

She added: “I was very upset, because I knew my younger daughter and her family were flying back to France that night.

“Mr Layzell telephoned me at 9pm to say the rector had forgotten all about it and that she would come after the Sunday church service in the morning.

“I found the ceremony very upsetting, but was grateful for the kindness Mr Layzell showed to me.”

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