Man 'baffled' by ashes in garden
A community volunteer said he was "baffled" after he discovered a stranger's ashes buried in his back garden.
Bill Stephenson was shocked when a box with a plaque saying "Thomas Lawson Cox, died 15 June 2008" was revealed, as he has lived at his home in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, for 46 years and does not know the man.
He has asked neighbours and researched the history of his street and can find no link with the late Mr Cox.
The 70-year-old said: "We are absolutely baffled.
"Why would somebody bury their relative's remains in a stranger's garden? Why not just scatter them?
"I have no knowledge of him whatsoever.
"We have been looking at the deeds of the houses on the street and there's nothing there."
Mr Stephenson spotted the buried box, wrapped in black plastic, when he checked on the job his gardener had done mowing his lawn.
"It was a shock," he said. "At first I thought someone had played a prank and maybe it was just the top, stuck on the soil.
"Then I examined it, and it was a full one and as far as I can tell it is intact.
"I'm not spooked by things like this - it is just as well."
Mr Stephenson, who is retired and volunteers at a local community association, said his garden was secluded by trees though it is right in the town centre, and suspected the burial happened at night.
For the time being the box cannot be moved as that would require the authority of the Ministry of Justice.
Durham Police have traced Mr Cox's brother, who plans to take the ashes to a more appropriate place.
A force spokesman said: "The 'casket' is still in Mr Stephenson's garden. We gather it cannot be removed without the appropriate paperwork from the Ministry of Justice.
"As it hasn't been opened, we can only assume it contains the deceased's ashes.
"A local funeral director has indicated they are willing to assist in then taking the casket, or box back to Birtley crematorium which is where Mr Cox was cremated.
"The brother is not sure how the container ended up in this garden but is grateful he has been made aware so he can now find a more appropriate resting space in due course."