Epsom Cemetery gravestone fiasco reawakens memories of murdered magistrate Josie Berrington
A woman visiting the grave of a murdered friend was horrified to find that someone else's gravestone had been placed on it.
Suzie Plank made the traumatic discovery when she went to lay a holly wreath on the unmarked grave of Josie Berrington, 34, in Epsom Cemetery last week.
Ms Plank, who lives in North Cheam, said she was shocked and distressed to see the wrong headstone on the grave.
She said: "I couldn’t believe it when I saw a gravestone not related to her at all.
"I’m absolutely disgusted. I think it’s incredibly disrespectful."
On Good Friday, April 1, 1994, the naked body of Ms Berrington, a magistrate at Epsom Magistrates' Court, was discovered in her new flat in Abinger Close, Wallington.
She had been strangled and her killer had started a fire in the bedroom in an apparent bid to conceal the crime.
Seventeen years later her killer has still not been brought to justice.
After Ms Plank complained to the council Mr Kennedy’s gravestone was promptly moved from Ms Berrington’s unmarked grave.
A council spokesman explained that the stone had been moved when a nearby grave was reopened for a further burial.
He said: "Due to the nature of the memorial and its position in the cemetery, removing it any distance would have been difficult.
"The memorial was therefore temporarily moved to the nearest available space, the unmarked grave.
"This procedure, although not common or the preferred option, is allowed in the regulations of the cemetery.
"The memorial has now been placed back in its original position."
But Ms Plank said the council, who had her contact details, should have let her know.
She said: "I have no idea how long the wrong gravestone had been there. Just to plonk it on someone else’s grave seems disrespectful.
"I just hope this never happens again to Josie or any other people."
Ms Plank was a childhood friend of Ms Berrington in Somerset and they stayed in touch afterwards.
She said: "She was a very gentle lady. She was very creative and loved amateur dramatics.
"She loved her family especially her children."
Ms Plank said she had lost touch with Ms Berrington’s children who were just eight and 10 at the time of the murder.
She believes she may now be the only person to visit the grave to remember her friend.
In 1994 Ms Berrington’s body was discovered by her ex-husband, Gary, who spoke to the Sutton Guardian about his anguish at the time.
Mr Berrington told the paper he discovered her corpse when he called at her house after she failed to pick up their children.
A neighbour had heard a scream the previous night.
Mr Berrington said he believed she had moved to Wallington just days before to escape a woman she feared would kill her.
He said: "When I dialled 999 after I found her, I felt like an actor in a very bad play. It wasn’t really happening.
"How do you say my wife is lying dead at my feet covered in soot. The children are finding it very hard."
Mr Berrington said when they were married they ran a catering company and stayed good friends after getting divorced.
During the initial investigation into the murder police brought a case against an individual, but then dropped it.
Asked this week for an update, a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman refused to give out details saying the press team focus on more recent investigations.
She said: "Obviously any case remains open until it is solved, but we can’t look into that because it’s quite old."
Ms Plank said: "It’s so sad isn’t it. She’s been forgotten.
"I think the police investigation was quite thorough, but sadly they didn’t have enough evidence."