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Saturday 23 September 2017

Man getting hate mail in storm over exhumation

Barry Duggan

A MAN who denies illegally exhuming the remains of a 95-year-old has received hate mail and claims that his business has suffered a downturn since he was accused of moving the coffin.

Sean McDermott (63), of Patrickswell, Co Limerick, said yesterday his family has suffered hugely since the body of Joseph 'Josie' Graham was removed without permission from his resting place in a rural cemetery outside the village.

Mr McDermott denies any involvement in the illegal exhumation from his own family plot at Clounanna Cemetery.

The coffin was dug up on February 26 last and interred at another plot at a new cemetery in Patrickswell.

Mr McDermott, who provided a statement to gardai, says he has no knowledge of how the deceased was initially buried in -- and later removed from -- his grandfather's plot.

The businessman, who has worked in Patrickswell since 1970, runs a shop and petrol station in the village.

"It has got very personal," he told the Irish Independent. "We have received hate mail -- at least three letters. People have chosen to boycott our business and more pass remarks."

Mr Graham died in 2009. Mr McDermott subsequently discovered that he had been buried in his grandfather's grave.

"We asked the caretaker of the cemetery about it, but he said I would have to go the council. My cousin wrote to Limerick County Council asking them about it. They said they would investigate the matter, but we heard no more," he said.

"The next thing we heard he had been taken out of the grave and put into the one near here (St Mary's). I have no knowledge of the putting him into the grave or the taking him out.

"The moment the story came out, people boycotted the shop and blamed us. The first two weeks after it happened, it was the most desperate feeling. My wife (Helen) and I work nights and people passed dirty remarks. It is hard to take, not for me, but for my wife.

"I got hate mail. They targeted my son, John, also. The effect on my family is the thing -- it is not fair on them," Mr McDermott said.

A garda investigation is continuing and the Irish Independent understands it is focused on the exhumation order and what procedures were taken.

Prosecuted

It is not known if anyone will be prosecuted for their role in the incident.

One of the letters to Mr McDermott reads: 'Shame on you' and 'The people of Patrickswell are disgusted with you and all who took part in it'.

"I have never encountered anything like this before," Mr McDermott said. "I have my own suspicions, but they are my own thoughts."

The undertaker who purchased the plot said it was "a private matter" and did not wish to comment further.

Limerick County Council has confirmed that no exhumation order was made to remove the man's remains.

Under the Local Government Act of 1948 any person who contravenes the guidelines surrounding exhumations faces a fine not exceeding £50 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.

Irish Independent

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