Bereaved relatives had their period of mourning tarnished by heartache, anguish and guilt, after a Skegness company failed to deliver their loved ones’ headstones.
Grieving families from all over the country have contacted the Standard to highlight their concerns about Simply Memorials to whom they paid hundreds, even thousands of pounds for headstones only to be left waiting for months while their relatives’ graves lay bare and unmarked.
Southampton man Roger Bennett said: “It’s made me feel angry and upset and even though it was my money I personally feel as though my father has been robbed from beyond the grave.”
The 27-year-old father of two saved for months to buy a headstone engraved with a Welsh dragon as a final tribute to his father who died after a battle with cancer.
Simply Memorial quoted Mr Bennett the most competitive price at £630 and promised to have it installed by October 28 to mark the anniversary of when his father’s ashes were buried.
As the date approached Mr Bennett grew increasingly concerned as the company became difficult to contact and caused delays with the legal permits required to build a headstone in the cemetery.
The anniversary came and went without the headstone being delivered and all Simply Memorials could offer were a series of ‘never ending promises and excuses’.
Now Mr Bennett says he can’t even get a response to his phone calls, emails or faxes and has been left wondering whether he will ever see the headstone he paid for or his money returned.
He said: “How can a company dealing with bereaved families and such a sensitive business be so insensitive?
“I cannot deal with this matter anymore - it has started to make me ill and my stress levels have gone through the roof.”
Similar stories of anger, frustration and despair have been raised by Leeds man Darren Harvey, after he spent more than £8,000 on a headstone for his father-in-law John Logue.
Again, Simply Memorials are said to have taken payment, promised a completion date and then failed to deliver or respond to communications.
Mr Harvey said: “My father-in-law was a successful businessman and a lovely, lovely man.
“He was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and started to deteriorate very quickly - he lost everything including his dignity and so for this to happen on top of it all to such a nice guy is just appalling.
“My mother-in-law is an absolute wreck, she had been with him for 40 years and now she can’t even bare to go to his graveside to remember him,
“I made a promise to John in the last week of his life that I would see all his unfinished business through and there’s no way Simply Memorials will get the better of me - I will fight this until my dying day.”
And yet more tales of misery have been told by Rotherham man Paul Wright who bought a headstone for his relative from Simply Memorials while visiting Skegness on holiday.
He said: “It’s prolonged the mourning period and whenever we go to the grave side expecting to see a stone all we see is a lump of muddy ground.
“It’s particularly bad for me as I tried to organise it and now I’m kicking myself because I should have got a local firm to do it and now I’m feeling guilty about it.”
“What concerns me more than anything is that these people are dealing with vulnerable people and they still have their website up and running taking orders.”
An administrator at the British Register of Accredited Memorial Masons has confirmed that more than a dozen people have complained to them, although they have no authority to take action over retail or business practises.
Lincolnshire Trading Standards has also confirmed it has received a number of complaints which it is investigating.
Principal trading standards officer Andy Wright said: “If a company doesn’t come up with the goods that are paid for then it’s usually down to the consumer to sue the company for damages and compensation through the small claims court.
“What we are able to do through a piece of legislation called the Enterprise Act, which allows us to take action against a company that has breached civil law, is make an enforcement order through the court and if they breach that order they are then in contempt of court and can be prosecuted under criminal law.”
Despite repeated calls and emails, the Standard was unable to contact Simply Memorials.
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