Widow's Horror As Husband's Coffin Is Dropped Exposing Body To Hundreds Of Mourners
A grieving widow has said she's still haunted by the day her husband's coffin was dropped by pallbearers, exposing his corpse to hundreds of mourners.
Following the harrowing incident, Debbie Swales had to hold two funerals for her late husband Gavin, 55 - although she says funeral director Clark Pearson has refused to accept the blame.
Debbie, 52, has decided to speak out about what happened after almost four years of fighting for justice.
She said she couldn't believe her eyes when Gavin's coffin was dropped by pallbearers lowering his body into the grave at West Road Cemetery in Newcastle.
On impact, the coffin fell to pieces, meaning that Gavin's body was exposed to 400-500 people watching on in horror.
Debbie 52, of South West Denton in Newcastle , said: "I just burst into tears. The lid smashed open and the kids jumped in [to his grave]. When lifting the coffin out it just fell to bits.
"We paid extra for a solid oak coffin with strong gold handles. We found out after that it was a replica MDF coffin that just shattered when it was dropped.
"Imagine that happening to your loved one. It is not private, 400 to 500 people were able to see him laid there."
Debbie said the pallbearers responsible then fled the scene, which meant her children had to bravely jump into the plot to recover Gavin's body.
Understandably, her family have been horrified by what they experienced, devastated that it was not he dignified send-off they wanted for their 'gentle giant'.
Debbie and her family had to rearrange Gavin's funeral using a different funeral director.
She said: "When I saw Gavin he just didn't look the same. He had a cut across his face as a result of the coffin breaking. It has haunted me ever since.
"I can't get on with living my life because I've been grieving for so long. I've had no closure to this and it's just been terrible for us all.
"It is not just the fact they dropped him. Of course it was an accident. But who would run away?
"You would front up to what happened and not leave the family to jump into the grave.
"We have been treated dreadfully ever since. I recall standing there and I cried and cried."
Gavin's ordeal had started back in 2013, when he was told he had a 9.5cm tumour in his right kidney.
While undergoing pre-assessment tests that doctors discovered he was also battling leukaemia.
His brother, Frankie, stepped in to donate his bone marrow, which was when Gavin's health started to improve.
However, progress halted when he got pneumonia and just months after undergoing a second transplant, Gaving sadly died.
Grandmother-of-six Debbie said: "Gavin has left a massive gap in my life, my kids' lives. My husband was known as the gentle giant all his life. He was always there to help people.
"If I had one wish in the world it would be to bring him back.
"He idolised me, his children and grandchildren. He was a great man who has been robbed of his life, and I have been robbed of my time with him."
Debbie and her children have had to go through counselling following the funeral.
"The last four years have been hell," Debbie continued.
"I have had many sleepless nights. Every time I see Gavin I just see the image of him in a broken coffin with people running around chaotically and family members being left to get him out.
"Without my kids and grandkids I don't know what I would have done. Instead of grieving for my husband I have had to fight for four years for justice for my Gavin.
"I haven't been to another funeral since, not even my best friend's.
"The kids can't go to Gavin's grave because they have flashbacks."
The family reluctantly accepted a settlement of £136,500 with the funeral directors back in August.
However, a £77,000 legal bill and other fees meant the Swales family only ended up with around £47,000.
Debbie, who said she's still waiting for an apology from Clark Pearson, added: "It means after all we've been through me and my children have ended up with just over £5,000 each. It's an absolute insult.
"All I've wanted is justice for my husband. It has not, and never will be, about the money. But my family has been through hell the past four years and Clark Pearson needed to realise what they have done to us.
"People say that time heals, but I don't feel any different now to what I did on the day of his funeral. I feel empty and I just can't be happy. I am always going to be carrying this sadness around for the rest of my life. I feel like half of me has gone.
"Gavin didn't deserve any of this and I'm disgusted that it has taken so long."
Newcastle City Council took no action against Clark Pearson for the incident, with the authority instead confirming they met with all funeral directors in the area to remind them of their roles and responsibilities as a result of the incident.
A statement from Clark Pearson's solicitor said: "Clark Pearson deeply regrets this unfortunate incident and the distress that was caused to the family.
"Settlement of the claims was agreed at mediation, so it would be inappropriate for Clark Pearson to comment any further."
Featured Image Credit: NCJ Media