The dying wish of Filey man Jim Haxby was to be buried at the town’s St Oswald’s churchyard.
He was adamant with relatives that “even if he had to be buried upright or left in his box in the graveyard” he wanted the churchyard to be his last resting place.
However, when he died in the autumn of 2018 it looked as if his dying wishes were going to be thwarted.
The family were told that the churchyard had been closed to any further funerals and that he could only be buried there if there was a family grave there that was deep enough.
Otherwise there was the alternative of him being cremated and his ashes being buried there.
Despite that, after a bizarre move while the Vicar, the Rev Nigel Chapman, was away on a course for several days, Jim got his wish.
When the Rev Chapman returned he found that Jim had been buried there in his absence anyway – “slotted in between two graves, that were regarded as a ‘family plot’.”
Now a judge has ruled that it was clearly not a family plot and not marked as such in churchyard plans.
As a result he has held that the burial was “unlawful”.
However, he has nevertheless ruled that although Mr Haxby should never have been buried there, now he is there he can have his dying wish and stay put.
The moment the Rev Chapman discovered what had been done while he was away he contacted the church authorities and the Archdeacon of East Riding to find out what should be done.
The result was that the Church of England’s Consistory Court was called in. Now Canon Peter Collier QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of York, in his role as a judge of the court, has said in an 8,500-word judgment that if anything similar happened again he would feel obliged to report it to the police with a view to prosecution.
He added that he could also not guarantee that a body buried in such circumstances in the future would be allowed to remain in the graveyard.
However, in this case he said that although Jim Haxby had “been buried unlawfully” in the churchyard and that “the unlawful position could not be made lawful” he would allow the body to remain there.
The family later apologised for what had happened in a letter to the Church authorities. In their letter, which was included in the judgment, Mr Haxby’s son James and daughter Mandy said: "We are led to believe that our local undertaker and vicar are in trouble for the burial of our late father, ‘James (Jim) Haxby’.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused but as a family we always knew that our Dad would be buried in Filey Cemetery next to his brother. It was always close to Dad’s heart and that was where he was going.
“He always said that was his place and it was sorted with a vicar years ago. All his late family are buried there and that was where he would go to be with them. We had no question that he would go anywhere else.
“We are truly sorry if this has caused any problems.”