A JUDGE has been called in to rule on tug-of-love battle over the ashes of a dead woman.

The row is between the man who was the woman’s partner for 40 years and two of his daughters by her from whom he is estranged.

When Amelia Smith died in January 2009 her daughters, Julie Nobes and Lisa Bramley, thought her ashes had all been buried in St George’s Churchyard at Woolhope, between Hereford and Ledbury, in the grave of her mother.


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But unbeknown to them their father, Joe Smith, had kept half the ashes, and later had them buried in a plot he bought at Ledbury cemetery so that when his time comes he could be re-united in death with his former partner.

He then approached the Church of England’s Consistory Court seeking to have the other half of the ashes exhumed from the Woolhope churchyard so they could also be buried at Ledbury.

When Mrs Nobes discovered what had happened, initially with the support of Mrs Bramley, she launched a counter plea in the Consistory Court seeking to have the ashes at Ledbury exhumed so they could be re-buried at Woolhope with the other half of their mother’s ashes.

Mrs Bramley later indicated she wished to take no further part in the proceedings, but Mrs Nobes continued with them.

Roger Kaye QC, Chancellor of the Diocese of Hereford, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court said in his ruling on the case it was a "sad and sorry state of affairs.”

He said Mr Smith had lived with his partner for over 40 years but they had never married.

The couple had four children, including Mrs Nobes and Mrs Bramley.

Mr Smith said that when his partner died she had left no will, and had left her funeral arrangements to him.

In 2018-2019 he acquired a plot at Ledbury where he could be buried after his death with the remaining ashes of his partner. He had her ashes buried there in March 2019.

He did not discuss his plans with his estranged daughters, who were shocked to learn their mother's ashes has been interred in Ledbury.

Mrs Nobes claimed that her mother had wanted to be buried with her own mother at Woolhope.

Although Mr Smith had initially sought to have the ashes removed from Woolhope so they too could be put in the Ledbury grave, the judge said he now wished to “preserve the status quo”, with half the ashes at Woolhope and half at Ledbury.

The judge said that there were “sincere and undoubted strong feelings on both sides” and whatever he did was bound to result in “upset.”

However, he said there had to be some finality, and after highlighting the church philosophy that a last resting place should be regarded as just that and that exhumation should only be approved if there had been a mistake or in exceptional circumstances, he ruled that the two sets of ashes should remain where they are.