Grieving victims of a bankrupt stonemasonry firm in Skegness have accused Trading Standards of ‘showing no compassion’ during its investigation into their loved ones’ missing gravestones.
Dozens of bereaved families who paid nearly a quarter of a million pounds to Simply Memorials but never received their dead relatives’ headstones turned to Lincolnshire Trading Standards in their quest for justice.
But the victim support group Simply Memorials RIP Off says Trading Standards has been obstructive, insensitive and failed to act when it had the chance.
The group’s spokesperson Darren Harvey said: “Trading Standards are a complete joke - they’ve let us down, they aren’t working with us, they are working against us.
“It’s sheer incompetence and they’ve shown no compassion to grieving families.”
Mr Harvey thinks it ‘shocking’ that Trading Standards failed to take action against Simply Memorials’ owner David Blakey, when he claims there are complaints dating back to October 2012.
Its failure to act quickly, he says, resulted in many more families losing money to the firm, while their loved ones’ graves laid bare.
A spokesperson for Trading Standards, however, says there were no records of any complaints until November at the earliest.
Mr Harvey was also angered by Trading Standards’ ‘uncooperative’ attitude with regards his own attempts to unite families with their missing headstones.
The insolvency company retrieving Simply Memorials’ assets are said to have discovered more than 30 engraved headstones at the company’s Skegness premises.
Mr Harvey claims he attempted to give Trading Standards the list so officers could cross reference it with their records of complaints against the company and identify whose gravestones they were.
“But all they kept saying was stuff about data protection,” he said.
“I didn’t want anyone’s information, I was trying to give them the list but they just kept saying the same thing - it’s ridiculous.”
Mr Harvey has since heard from one of the out-of-pocket victims whose dead relatives’ headstone was among those found on the site, but because he hadn’t been told about it, he had spent hundreds of pounds on another.
Trading Standards has since apologised for any confusion over the issue and contacted the families who had lodged complaints with them and had relatives whose names featured on the list to inform them of the situation.
Lincolnshire County Council’s head of safer communications Sara Barry said: “I understand how deeply upsetting this process has been for customers of Simply Memorials.
“At Trading Standards, we seek to create a fair and safe trading environment, and, as such, all complaints lodged with us are investigated sensitively, professionally and in a timely manner. “We have to work within a number of regulations and the enforcement powers they give us, so in this instance we used the Enterprise Act, as the most appropriate legislation for us to attempt to address the problems consumers were experiencing with Mr Blakey, owner of Simply Memorials.
“In this case, I feel we did everything in our power to help consumers affected and to ensure that Mr Blakey met his contractual responsibilities.
“For those who would like to discuss this issue, please contact us on 01522 782341.”
To find out more about Simply Memorials RIP Off’s campaign or to donate to its cause visit its website.