There is much pain and trauma surrounding the loss of a loved ones. In many cases, the burial proceedings aim to alleviate part of the pain as relatives are given the opportunity to ‘say goodbye’ and rest in confidence that their family or friend will now rest in peace. Thus funeral homes and cemeteries have a special duty of care to treat the deceased and families who mourn with respect and sensitivity.

Unfortunately in the case of an elderly fellow citizen – whose name is being kept private according to her family’s wishes – there was additional pain as her body had to be exhumed and transported to another part of the cemetery two months after her death because her grave belonged to another family.

The owner of the grave, Stephen Sedrak spoke to Neos Kosmos, outraged by the behavior of the those in charge of Fawkner Cemetery. He has started a petition in order to take legal action against them.

In February 2019, Mr Sedrak bought six graves in Fawkner Cemetery. On 14 August of the same year he lost his father and the next day he contacted the cemetery to inform them that he would make use of one of the six tombs that belonged to him.

“The employee replied that I had five and I gave them the opportunity until the 19th of the month when the burial would take place to find it and confirm. Nobody contacted me me, so I assumed everything was fine and we proceeded with my father’s funeral,” he told Neos Kosmos. 

A few days later, when he went to visit his father’s grave, he was surprised to find that a Greek woman was laid to rest next to him, in a plot owned by him.

“I immediately contacted the sales department of the cemetery and asked them for explanations. They initially denied any responsibility, but later admitted that the grave had been ‘double-booked’ by mistake, apologising and assuring me that computer technicians were looking for the problem in the computer system which they attributed to the malfunction,” Mr Sedrak said.

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Mr Sedrak then began negotiations with cemetery officials to find an ideal solution for all parties involved in the blunder.

“I told them that they should contact the family of the deceased and ask if they want the exhumation to take place or not. I told them that if the family refused, I would understand and I would not oppose their will, however I would be very unhappy with the cemetery.”

Shortly after, the cemetery informed him that the family of the deceased had agreed to move her to another part of the cemetery.

“It is unacceptable for them to treat the dead and their families with such disrespect. I can not fathom how much pain the other family would have experienced,” Mr Sedrak told Neos Kosmos, in hopes that the news would find the woman’s family.

Mr Sedrak wanted to express his family’s indignation and regret for all they may have suffered.

“I want to find them and ask them to join their voice with mine to let the community know that something is wrong with Fawkner.”

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Neos Kosmos found the deceased’s only relative in Melbourne, but she did not want to make herself know to the public, but agreed to contact Mr Sedrak.

“Such a large cemetery that serves so many communities and parishes should have systems that will not allow such tragic mistakes. Unfortunately, in Fawkner’s case, it turns out that such mistakes are constantly repeated,” Mr Sedrak said, citing earlier reports that a coffin had been placed in another grave ‘by mistake’ in the same cemetery.

“This must stop and people must receive the services for which they have paid something that Fawkner Cemetery officials guarantee on their website. It is the supreme human right to be able to rest peacefully when one dies. That is why I started collecting signatures,” Mr Sedrak concluded.