A South Australian woman has spoken of her torment after being forced to farewell a stranger inside her mother’s coffin.
More than 100 people had gathered at the Enfield Memorial Park in Adelaide on August 1 to farewell 73-year-old Margaret Locke.
But just moments before the ceremony was due to begin, her daughter discovered that it wasn’t her mum inside the casket.
“If we didn’t go and have a look we would have thought it was our mum that we were cremating that day,” Dianne De Jager told A Current Affair.
Yet despite her anguish, she says the funeral director from Clarke Family Funerals refused to believe her until she pulled out a photo of her mum on her deathbed.
“I said, ‘on the sixth time, this is my f*****g mum, I know what my f*****g mum looks like’,” Ms De Jager said.
“I zoomed the face in and I put it next to the lady in that coffin and I said, ‘this is not my mum’.”
After apologising for the mix-up the funeral director incredibly encouraged the family to continue on with the service.
A decision that would go on to haunt Ms De Jager who didn’t know where her mother’s body was.
“It made me feel sick there, I didn’t want to be there,” she said.
“None of that eulogy really sunk in or hit me because I wasn’t really listening properly, I wasn’t really there.
“It just made me feel so empty and blank.
‘Deeply regrettable’, says funeral home
In a statement to Channel Nine, Clarke Family Funerals said the “situation is deeply regrettable” and that it offers its “sincerest apologies to the family".
It's now working with the family to come to an agreement on compensation.
“Our mistake was identified just prior to the commencement of the service,” it said.
“Due to the distance between our funeral home and the location of the service, together with the number of people attending, the decision was made to proceed with the service as planned rather than postpone.”
Clarke Family Funerals claimed the decision was made under the stress of the situation and on reflection it should have sought a different outcome.
“We have always strived to provide beautiful and respectful funerals that offer a lasting tribute but on Monday we fell well short of our own high standards.”
It added that once the service was completed, the error was immediately rectified and the correct cremation took place.
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