The Bell family, who buried patriarch Thomas back in 2005, regularly visited his gravestone at Holy Trinity cemetery in Wingate for 17 years.
An inquiry found “a perfect storm” of problems led to the crushing mistake, believed to be due to the human error of a stonemason.
Bob Cooper, the Archdeacon of Sunderland, said that the error was a “great sadness” caused by a number of wrong protocols being followed.
Cooper said a stonemason fitted the headstone for Bell in 2005 but due to “insufficient process” and “poor record keeping” it was “placed on the wrong grave”.
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He said the vicar at the time responsible for the burial, who has since died, “did not keep records to the extent that would be considered best practice”.
“The term ‘a perfect storm’ is used all too often in modern parlance, however on this occasion it seems particularly apt,” Cooper said.
“It cannot be guaranteed that historic cases like this will not reoccur because there will be gaps in the records for many reasons in parishes across the Diocese of Durham and further afield.”
A number of recommendations are set to be implemented within the parish to ensure the mix-up does not occur again.