Berwick gravedigger's book ‘better than any apology’

A former gravedigger accused of burying people in the wrong graves says reaction to a tell-all book about his ordeal has been “better than any apology”.

Ex-grave diggers for Northumberland County Council, Chris Gregory, left, and Malcolm Purvis.
Ex-grave diggers for Northumberland County Council, Chris Gregory, left, and Malcolm Purvis.

Chris Gregory and his former colleague Malcolm Purvis were also alleged to have carried out illegal burials and leaving their then manager ‘for dead’ after pushing her into an open grave.

None of the claims were ever proved, despite probes by both Northumbria Police and Northumberland County Council.

And now Chris’s attempt to tell his own version of the tale by putting pen to paper himself has sold about 350 copies since it was released earlier this year.

“The effect in Berwick and the feedback has been unbelievable – far better than any apology I might have got from the county council,” he said.

“When they accused us of burying up to 30 people in the wrong graves, we never left the house.

“We buried these people’s mums and dads, their sons and daughters and then they were going to read the paper and hate us.

“Fast forward eight years, we’ve put a book out and now we get to go out in Berwick again.”

Before the ‘warts and all’ account was published, Mr Gregory had said: “We tried every possible avenue to receive some form of apology.”

A few copies of the book, a joint effort between Gregory and Purvis, are still available for sale in the town, with the possibility of more being ordered if demand continues.

So far, while demand has largely come from Berwick itself, orders have come in from as far afield as Ireland, the Americas and Australia.

A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “The county council has a fundamentally different perspective on the events reported in this book.

“While we wouldn’t talk about individual cases, the disciplinary processes in these matters, which took place several years ago, considered a number of serious issues aside from allegations of illegal or incorrect burials.

“We expect those involved in any aspect of bereavement services to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, and the behaviour in this case fell far short of those expected standards.”

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service