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Grave Justice

Lily Pinnock is going to court to fight to save her daughter's grave from being shortened.

It’s not the natural order of things for a parent to outlive their child, but when it does it may take many years to overcome the grief and trauma. On the 13th of March 2007, Essex Gypsy woman Lily Pinnock lost her 15 year old daughter Angeline to Leukaemia. Like many Gypsy families the Pinnocks were determined that their daughter’s last resting

place would be a fitting tribute to their child. Every day since she buried her daughter that spring Lily Pinnock has been back to see her twice a day.

“People say the grave is absolutely lovely,” says Lily. Her family photographs bear witness to the fact that on each birthday of Angelines, as well each Christmas and the anniversary of her death, Lily decorates the grave with the love only a heartbroken mother could bestow. On what would have been Angeline’s 18th birthday her grave was festooned with balloons, teddy bears and flowers to mark a coming of age that never came.

Yet Lily says that Angeline is not being allowed to rest in peace. Recent rule changes from Basildon District Council which manages the cemetery in Pitsea, Essex where Angeline is buried  have led to demands that Angeline’s grave be shortened from six foot to three foot. But Lily is having none of it. She says the permission for 6 foot grave the council gave her cannot be taken back. Her refusal to shorten the grave has lead the council to take the Pinnock family to court in June.

The council says it needs to shorten all graves in the cemetary for access and “health and safety”. But Lily will not be budged. “It’s all of her I have left, tell me why should I cut her in half or let them drive over the top her?” she asks, clearly distressed at the thought.

Basildon is about to be the scene of Europe’s largest ever eviction of Traveller families, when the District Council decides to clear half of the plots at the Dale Farm Irish Traveller site. It’s leaders have publicly stated that there is no more room for Travellers in their district, but does that extend to it’s graveyards too?

“The fact that it is a Gypsy grave is completely irrelevant.” says council spokesperson Jonathan Phillips. “The issue is to do with access. One grave cannot be bigger than others.”

He rejects the idea that the council is riding roughshod over a grieving family’s feeling. “We are quite careful around these issues,” he insists, “But in the end we must respond to how the majority want things.” The issue will be resolved in court on June 2nd. Until then  Lily Pinnock will be desperately hoping that she wins.