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Loughton Baptist Church exhumed 25 bodies from graves to make way for an extension
The sound of diggers exhuming human remains in a neighbouring graveyard gave a family a rude awakening.
The Harts, of Ollards Grove in Loughton, were disturbed at 5am on Monday as work begun to clear graves to make way for an extension for a playgroup at Loughton Baptist Church.
Julie Hart, 47, said: “I am really angry that nobody from the church bothered to forewarn us.
“It should have been advertised to people living around the graveyard. Our children don’t even know that it is a graveyard.
“The bodies are being dug up with a JCB and all that is sheltering the view is a mound of earth. There are coffins just sat on the ground.”
Husband Colin Hart, 49, said he does not believe the church, which is moving the bodies to elsewhere on the site, is abiding by Ministry of Justice guidelines.
He said: “The Act says is that building work should not commence until the exhumation work has been completed.
“In this instance not only had it started but they carried on during the exhumations, affording the bodies no dignity whatsoever.”
Epping Forest District Council’s environment and neighbourhood officer, Chris Smith, visited the site and ordered work to be carried out after 7.30am.
He said the church did not want to ‘bring attention’ to the remains.
A total of 25 bodies, including some mothers with children, were exhumed, with some in unmarked graves.
Church Minister, Revered Wayne Dulson said the work was being carried out for the benefit of the people in Loughton.
“It has cost us a serious amount of money. As a church we are responsible for carrying out any work,” he said.
“An officer came down from the council and he was happy with the screening.
“The church complied with all of the guidelines set out by the Ministry of Justice.
“We are doing this for the benefit of the community for out playgroup which is opening in January.”
Revered Dulson says that since the graveyard has been closed for burials since 1915 and the church was built in 1813.
The church has planning permission for the extension and has applied to build a ‘modest’ four bedroom home to be built.