Family torn apart by man who took his father's ashes from garden and now won't tell his relatives where they are

  • Stephen Pringle, 52, took ashes from his mother's garden last November
  • They had been stored in urn and buried under rose bush for past 17 years
  • He was charged with stealing, but found not guilty of a criminal offence
  • Mr Pringle admits he took ashes and will not disclose their whereabouts
  • His heartbroken relatives say: 'Closure has been taken away from us'

By Sophie Jane Evans

A family has been torn apart after a man took his father's ashes from his elderly mother's garden - and is still refusing to reveal their whereabouts.

Joseph Pringle, 64, died from heart failure in 1996 and his remains were buried in his wife Ruby's back garden in Spittal in Berwick, Northumberland.

They were stored in an urn and hidden under a rose bush, where they remained for 17 years.

Plea: The heartbroken relatives of Stephen Pringle, 52, have begged him to reveal the whereabouts of his father's ashes. Above, his sister, Vivien Robson, in her mother's garden, where the ashes used to be buried

Plea: The heartbroken relatives of Stephen Pringle, 52, have begged him to reveal the whereabouts of his father's ashes. Above, his sister, Vivien Robson, in her mother's garden, where the ashes used to be buried

Distraught: Joseph Pringle, 64, died from heart failure in 1996 and his remains were buried in his wife Ruby's (picture, right, with Ms Robson) garden in Spittal in Berwick, Northumberland. But in November, they vanished

Distraught: Joseph Pringle, 64, died from heart failure in 1996 and his remains were buried in his wife Ruby's (picture, right, with Ms Robson) garden in Spittal in Berwick, Northumberland. But in November, they vanished

But in November, Mrs Pringle, now 82, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, went into the garden and discovered the urn had vanished, while the rose bush had been upended.

Following a police investigation, her eldest son, Stephen Pringle, was charged with stealing the cremated remains.

 

The 52-year-old appeared before Berwick Magistrates' Court on Monday, where he was found not guilty of committing a criminal offence.

Cremated:  The ashes of Joseph Pringle (pictured) had been stored in an urn and hidden under a rose bush for 17 years before they were taken

Cremated: The ashes of Joseph Pringle (pictured) had been stored in an urn and hidden under a rose bush for 17 years before they were taken

But despite the outcome, Mr Pringle admits he has taken the ashes - although he is still yet to reveal their exact whereabouts to his family.

Yesterday, his mother and siblings Vivien Robson, 58, Ann Chissel, 46, and Gordon Pringle, 48, pleaded with him to disclose the location of his father's remains.

'Just let us know exactly where you have scattered my dad. We could go and put some flowers down,' said Mrs Chissel, also from Berwick.

'At the end of the day, we were all very close to my dad.'

Mrs Chissel said her brother had taken the ashes following a family row over a loan, and had later revealed that he had scattered them somewhere in Ormiston in East Lothian, Scotland.

But after visiting the village and raking through rubbish bins, the family have still not managed to recover any trace of the urn.

'It is like my dad has died all over again but now we don't have anything to show for it,' she said.

'When he died we knew where he was and now it is like that closure has been taken away from us.

'This has wrecked the whole family because we were all pretty close. When we found out this had happened, we couldn't believe it and we don't know why it has happened.'

She added: 'We believe that Stephen still has the ashes. We don't know why he is doing this to us. We would be happy if he even took us and showed us where he scattered them.

All that is left: In November, Mrs Pringle, now 82, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, went into the garden and discovered the urn had vanished, while the rose bush had been upended (pictured)

All that is left: In November, Mrs Pringle, now 82, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, went into the garden and discovered the urn had vanished, while the rose bush had been upended (pictured)

'We just want to know what has happened. It would help if we just knew.'

Mr Pringle's solicitor Ian O'Rourke said yesterday the case was the 'most extraordinary case' he has ever had to deal with, and should never have reached court.

'It was a dreadful and very sad case. This man [Stephen Pringle] did not act dishonestly at all. It has been quite a distressing case to see a family torn apart like this,' he said.

Sister: Mr Pringle has admitted taking the ashes - but is yet to reveal their exact whereabouts to his family

Sister: Mr Pringle has admitted taking the ashes - but is yet to reveal their exact whereabouts to his family

Mr O'Rourke said his client had admitted taking the ashes after things came to a head one night when he had taken prescribed tranquillisers.

'Stephen wanted to scatter the ashes where his father was born in Ormiston,' he said.

But he added that there is hope for the fractured family as mediation is an option, saying: 'When Stephen was interviewed by police, he was more than willing to engage in mediation.'

When approached by reporters, Mr Pringle said he did not wish to comment.



The comments below have been moderated in advance.

This is why you scatter ashes after cremation, that's the whole point! If you want a burial have a plot in the cemetery with a headstone etc don't mix and match both

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Susan, thank you for making me laugh out loud!

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Dont hang on to the ashes of your loved ones. Scattering them is closure. Not burying them. I suspect that the son knew this and has done the proper thing.

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What a selfish man, he could at least have waited until his mother had died.

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Im sure Mr Pringle has had some kind of emotional breakdown. Once you pop you cant stop!

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Why do people make such a big deal about Earthly Remains¿. ?

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My dad died in 1991 and was cremated. My mum collected his ashes from the funeral directors in 1992. On clearing out their garden shed my husband found the cremated remains in the box, in a disused freezer!!! Nothing was said until a few years later when I asked mum where dad's remains were. She laughed and said she had scattered them in a place without permission. I pressed her for info but to no avail. She died in 2008. I have her cremated remains. No idea what to do with them as it would be nice to put them with dad but have no idea where that is! Still, I never really liked my mother so they may as well go in the refuse bin

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He will eventually tell, it's just that he hasn't been asked properly.

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Oh please!

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I thought you had to get a licence to legally bury someone's remains in the garden. It is wrong though that he is preventing other love ones from paying their respects. He should grow up and allow them all to have a say in what happens to them.

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