Generous stone masons have offered to help dozens of grieving relatives who paid a Skegness business for headstones which never arrived.
A campaign led by the victims of Simply Memorials tugged at the heart strings of other masonry companies, which have offered financial support and discounts on their own headstones.
Darren Harvey, a spokesperson for the ‘Simply Memorials Rip Off’ group, said the masons’ kind offer has come as a great relief to the victims, who claim to have lost a total of around £70,000 to the now bankrupt company.
He said: “We’ve had plenty of stone masons come forward and offered special deals to the victims, which is absolutely fantastic.
“There are some really positive things happening - to hear about the sympathy and generosity of these stone masons was a real shock and has shown us there are some good people out there.”
The group formed when dozens of bereaved families found it increasingly difficult to contact Simply Memorials after paying hundreds, even thousands of pounds for headstones for their loved ones, only to see their graves remain bare weeks after the promised delivery.
The Standard and national media helped publicise the victims’ stories of frustration, anger and guilt as they attempted to gain answers from the company owner David Blakey.
Mr Blakey has since apologised to his aggrieved customers, explaining that financial issues meant he had been unable to deliver on his promises and said he would inform them who the official receiver was so they could register as a creditor.
Lincolnshire Trading Standards has been in contact with Mr Blakey after receiving more than 80 complaints and believes he was a ‘small trader who ran into difficulties,’ rather than the perpetrator of an ‘intentional scam.’
Head of safer communications Sara Barry has told customers who paid by credit or debit card that they may be able to get a refund from their card operator but warned others that pursuing refunds through the small claims court would only incur them further costs if the debtor was bankrupt.
She said: “Unfortunately none of this is good news for bereaved consumers.
“Many of the customers found Simply Memorials on the internet and our advice when purchasing from companies you have no bought from before is to ensure you research them first.
“if possible, pay using a credit card for anything over £100 as this provides added protection.”
To make a donation of your own or to contact the campaign group visit Simply Memorials Rip Off