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Grave error: woman finds skull at mum's headstone
Photo: DPA

Grave error: woman finds skull at mum's headstone

Published: 18 Jul 2012 12:57 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 Jul 2012 12:57 GMT+02:00

A grieving woman who went to tend her mother’s grave in Cologne got the shock of her life when she found a skull, complete with a set of teeth, in the mud by the headstone.

Claudia Schmitt, 48, buried her mother just three weeks ago and had intended to take her 82-year-old father Heinz with her to the grave on Tuesday.

“He is no longer so good on his feet but wanted, as always, to visit mother at the cemetery once in the week,” she told the Express newspaper.

“But because of the rain he decided to stay at home.”

This was a stroke of luck in what was otherwise a horrifying day for Schmitt. “He could certainly not have taken the shock,” she said.

It was when she bent down to check the flowers and tidy up the grave, that she saw something she initially assumed was a coconut.

“There were also many worms and maggots. And then when I saw a jawbone complete with teeth, I flipped out. Of course one had the terrible feeling that one had found the remains of one’s own mother. “

Weeping with fear, she phoned her brother Harald who said, “I couldn’t understand what was going on. Claudi was beside herself. I just understood West Cemetery and went there straight away.”

When the siblings called the cemetery administrators, staff were terribly sorry.

“Things like this can happen, but we can only apologise. The remains will be buried tomorrow in a separate funeral,” said a spokesman.

Schmitt said visits to her mother’s grave would be even more difficult in the future.

“I light a candle for mother every day at her grave. I’m not sure whether I’ll have the courage to go tomorrow,” she said.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:25 July 18, 2012 by BR549
"Of course one had the terrible feeling that one had found the remains of one's own mother"... how may one read this one article and feel as one with the one who found one skull by one's mother's grave??

Jeez, the wording throughout this entire article was strange to me...
13:53 July 18, 2012 by Gilly58
Do they not bury people in coffins 5ft under in Cologne?
13:58 July 18, 2012 by rutledm
Talk about leaving people hanging.....¦quot;Things like this can happen, but we can only apologise. The remains will be buried tomorrow in a separate funeral,¦quot; said a spokesman. ....what happened.....they dropped someones head enroute to their gravesite? What? Talk about suspenseful journalism.....
15:48 July 18, 2012 by EffectivelyME
"I knew him, Horatio!"
16:10 July 18, 2012 by TheWonderer
It does not happen often, but it happens.

When a grave is re-used after it's cycle (usually 25 years if not extended), it may happen that not everything is rotten. Normally it is, but sometimes...

So the excavator piles things up, the coffin is let down, then the stuff dug out is filled in again - and it that moment, something that used to be at least 5 ft under comes up to surface.

One reason is sometimes clay or other materials that seal off the coffin or part of it and thus stop the decomposing process.

But this is rare, normally.

But at all times, one or the other bone was found, normally they are put down below the floor of the next dug-out grave (so bystanders do not see).

In old times, bone-houses were used.

The Wonderer
17:49 July 18, 2012 by franconia
Funny and not funny. Grandma died in '72 , my Stepmother last year. My Sister dug a small hole to plant some Flowers on her grave and stubbed her finger on one of Grandmas fingerbones. No big deal after that many years, she flung it over the wall and kept on planting.
18:38 July 18, 2012 by Gretl
One would assume a coffin was used, even if it was like the Wonderer said, wood doesn't decay 5 ft underground that fast. It makes me think the plan was to charge for the coffin, then after everyone has left, throw the body in the hole, and resell the coffin to the next grieving family.

I think I'd sue.
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