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stolen ashes dispute

Digging up and stealing your father

stolen ashes dispute

A family from Berwick on the Scottish Borders are in dispute, the culmination of which lead to one of the sibling digging up his father ashes from his mother’s garden and refusing to return them.

The remains of Mr Joseph Pringle were buried under a rose bush in the garden of the family home in Northumbria. Where his widow Mrs Ruby Pringle still lives.

However in November of last year Mrs Pringle’s eldest son Stephen dug them up and removed them and has refused to return them or disclose there whereabouts. He said they have been scattered where Mr Pringle (Snr) was born in East Lothian but the family don’t think this is true.

The case even came to court, Stephen was charged with theft. But he was acquitted of the offence after the bench at Berwick Magistrates’ Court found him not guilty of a criminal offence on Monday.

The reporting is a bit confused but it would appear that Stephen took them after a family row about money when he was using prescription tranquilisers.

His solicitor Ian O’Rourke said the case should never have reached court and it is the ‘most extraordinary case’ he has ever dealt with.

He said: “It was a dreadful and very sad case. This man [Stephen Pringle] did not act dishonestly at all. It has been quite a distressing case to see a family torn apart like this.”

He said Stephen admits taking the ashes after things came to a head one night when Stephen had taken prescribed tranquillisers.

Mr O’Rourke said: “Stephen wanted to scatter the ashes where his father was born in Ormiston.”

The solicitor added there is hope for the fractured family. Part of Stephen’s bail conditions included not contacting the family members giving evidence in the court case. However, now he has been found not guilty, his solicitor says that mediation is an option.

I have to be careful what I say here, as it would not be the first time I proffered my honest opinion and upset one side of the divide. However, IF Mr Pringle (Jnr) did remove the ashes, that has to be wrong. It may be that the law says that if something can’t be owned then it can’t be stolen, but taking the ashes without consent from your 82 year old mother’s garden can’t be right – surely. And I know it is not a lawyer’s job to sit in moral judgement over their client and to defend them in accordance with the law, but I do wonder how they sleep at night.

I do hope the family can patch this up.

One final thought is surely the crime was removing the ashes without an exhumation order, rather than theft? Thus isn’t Stephen a grave robber, as ashes are technically not different to a body? Or as the family did not seek permission for the burial was he not ‘technically buried’? As soon as gain the understanding I will pass it on….

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