Council accuses Edmonton cemetery owners of ‘desecrating graves’

Tottenham Park Cemetery’s owners deny the accusations and say the council’s comments are part of “a continuing campaign against us”, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Tottenham Park Cemetery
Tottenham Park Cemetery

A fresh row has broken out over the running of an Edmonton cemetery after families were left “upset, anguished and distressed” to find red-and-white tape wrapped around their loved ones’ graves.

Enfield Council and a residents’ group have criticised the new owners of the privately-run Tottenham Park Cemetery over the actions, which a civic centre spokesperson said amounted to the “desecration of graves”.

The new owners claimed their actions had been “misrepresented”, however. They said they had been “clearing unsafe broken memorial stones” and “chasing up owners of graves whose licences are due to expire”.

Concerns over the cemetery, which is located in Dodsley Place, off Montagu Road, have repeatedly been raised by Tottenham Park Cemetery Action Group.

Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, a Liberal Democrat peer and member of the action group, said the tape had recently been placed on memorials and gravestones “claiming they need to be repaired or replaced because they are the wrong size or something is wrong with them”.

She pointed out many people could not afford to pay “thousands of pounds” to replace the memorials – which would have been granted permission by previous owners – and said the council and local MPs had received a lot of complaints from relatives.

“It is causing a lot of upset, anguish and distress,” she explained. “They [the owners] are not being respectful to families.”

The row is the latest in a series of controversies to affect the cemetery, which is one of the largest Turkish burial grounds in the UK.

In 2018, suspected human remains were found at the cemetery, sparking fears that graves were being dug up to make way for new burials. In 2021, the action group raised concerns over broken headstones, tyre marks on graves and rat infestations.

Inspections ordered by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) concluded that the cemetery was full and burials should only be allowed in reserved plots.

Enfield Council attempted to buy the Tottenham Park Cemetery earlier this year to bring it into public ownership, but then-owner Peter Demetriou rejected its offer. He subsequently sold the site to British Turkish businessmen Mustafa Dari and Ersin Savas.

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Last week, a council spokesperson branded the situation at the cemetery “unacceptable”. They said: “Enfield Council is extremely distressed by reports from residents regarding the desecration of existing graves, and the failure to receive burial records for several years.

“The recent change of ownership has not alleviated our concerns. Furthermore, we have received a number of complaints that the ‘new’ owners are imposing new grave plot lease arrangements on families who have loved ones buried at the cemetery.

“Enfield Council are working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice to find solutions, and we continue to raise concerns with ministers on behalf of the local community who feel let down by consecutive owners of the cemetery.

“There have been two statutory inspections in the past four years, with both stating that the cemetery is full and recommending the closure of the site to new burials. Despite this, it has been reported that there have been over 250 new burials since 2019. The owners of the cemetery should immediately stop all new burials that are not already clearly marked reserved plots.”

Responding to the comments, Mustafa claimed that he and Ersin’s actions had been misrepresented and old allegations regurgitated as part of a “continuing campaign against us”.

Mustafa said the previous owner, Peter Demetriou, had begun restoring the cemetery and “implemented a strategy of aerial mapping of the graves and the consolidation and digitisation of the burial records that he planned to make available to the public through free online registers and the cemetery’s website”.

He added: “New graves have been found, thanks to the aerial mapping and ground inspections, plus additional spaces following the extensive tree removal (old diseased and dangerous trees) required under the MoJ report.

“We do allow burying a family member with an existing relative (wives with husbands, sons with fathers, etc). What does not happen is the interference of existing graves for any improper purpose, including the reuse of a grave for strangers.

“As part of the MoJ recommendations we are also clearing unsafe broken memorial stones. As with all cemeteries, public or private, we are also chasing up owners of graves whose licences are due to expire (usually 50 years) so that they can be extended and not left abandoned.”

An MoJ spokesperson said: “We are monitoring the situation at Tottenham Park Cemetery very closely and continue to engage with the owners and local community while we consider next steps.”

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