Burial plots were sold multiple times at an environmentally friendly site with some already paying to reserve what they thought was a vacant site.
The unsettling practices are just the tip of the iceberg at The Durham Woodland Burial Trust as it has been placed into liquidation its founder and former director Ian Rutland arrested on suspicion of fraud, reports the Northern Echo.
Trust records seen by The Northern Echo reveal that some single plots were sold to several different customers – one to five people and another to three – together with plots already in use.
Key information also appeared to be missing for other burial sites, such the details of the person interred there.
Durham Police have confirmed that a 56-year-old man from Witton Gilbert, near Durham, was arrested on suspicion of fraud in January and is currently on bail pending further enquiries.
Two directors of the trust, based at Durham Crematorium in South Road, wrote to concerned members earlier this week to tell them it was now insolvent.
The letter by Bridget Austin and Paul Sattersthwaite says: “Myself and my co-director were invited to become directors of the Woodland Burial Trust in March and at this time we were completely unaware of the financial situation of the organisation.
“We have taken advice from an insolvency practitioner who has reported that due to the scale of debts, the only option for the Woodland Burial Trust is that of insolvency.
“Like all of you, we are deeply distressed by this situation we inherited.”
Around 140 members have paid the minimum £500 deposit to secure a plot while 26 people have paid the full £1,500 for a funeral.
The company also has unpaid loans and the trust is being audited because of concerns over its record keeping.
Former director Jonathan Elmer, who resigned in January 2015, said: “The families of people who are buried on the site will be wondering what’s going to happen to the bodies of their loved ones. It’s really upsetting.
“I want to see all the people who have tried hard to make this work and families who of all the people who have been buried there to be protected through this process.”