When Harry-Lee Andrews-Tomlinson died after suffering an asthma attack, his mum Sharna Andrews and her daughter Zofia hand-painted decorations for the boy’s grave
A grieving mother has won a reprieve to stop the removal of decorations from her seven-year-old son’s grave.
Sharna Andrews, 29, was heartbroken when she received a letter from the council saying the decoration didn’t “comply with the rules and regulations” and needed to be taken away from Harry-Lee Andrews-Tomlinson’s resting place.
Sharna and her daughter Zofia, now eight, hand-painted the wooden fence in rainbow colours – which they say matched the youngster’s “bright and happy” personality – as it helped them grieve.
When Sharna, a support worker from Tredworth, Gloucestershire, got the letter, she vowed to “fight” to save the fencing – and now she’s delighted to get a reprieve.
Councillors at Gloucester City Council voted unanimously to approve the amended motion and carry out a review of its rules. It is understood Sharna can now continue to decorate the grave in the run-up to Christmas. Sharna spoke at a council meeting to deliver her case and, despite the “overwhelming and emotional” experience, the mum convinced councillors at the Tory-led authority.
Speaking today, Sharna said: “In the meeting it was so overwhelming and emotional – I did have a little cry. It took me a few minutes to process that they actually agreed to look at the rules and regulations.
“It’s been very emotional, it was unfair that I was put in that position before when I still haven’t come to terms with the death of my son and I hope I’m never in that position again. It’s just a waiting game for the review now but it’s the start of the beginning and hopefully it ends the right way.”
Harry died after suffering an asthma attack in February 2022, aged just seven. The fence helped Sharna and Zofia, in particular, cope with the loss. So, the letter, which arrived in the post last month, left Zofia “upset for days”.
The council meeting on Thursday heard other families had been affected by the rule at Gloucester Cemeteries and Crematorium in the Coney Hill area, and other sites across the city.
Deputy leader of the council, Hannah Norman, said that while the review is underway the deedholders who have received letters to make changes will not have any legal action taken against them. While the review is carried out, Sharna can keep the trinkets and remain optimistic they can stay there forever.
Speaking after the decision in her favour, Sharna said: “There’s no words to describe the way I’m feeling now. I’m very thankful they took the rules into consideration – and I hope when they assess the rules and regulations they think of the impact on the families. In the meantime we can do what we want with his grave. We can decorate it for Christmas – Harry-Lee loved getting involved in decorating, especially at Christmas.
“Now he can’t do that with us, we’re taking the decorations to him. Just because he’s gone doesn’t mean everything he liked should be gone with him. When we used to get the tree up he’d be so excited to help put the lights on. I can already picture his face and how excited he’d be for us to decorate.”
Before the latest ruling, Gloucester City Council said the rules and regulations for Gloucester Crematorium had been put in place since August 2014 and were “in line with those in place in other cemeteries and graveyards around the country.” It said all families are asked to sign up to these at the time of burial which stops boardings, kerb sets or chippings on graves “unless they are approved by a stonemason.”
Speaking today though, a spokesperson for Gloucester City Council said: “We will be undertaking a review into the rules and regulations around cemeteries in Gloucester to ensure they still meet best practice.
“The current rules and regulations for Gloucester Cemetery have been put in place since August 2014 and are in line with those in place in other cemeteries and graveyards around the country. All families are asked to sign up to these at the time of burial and copies are then sent to them to retain.
“The rules do not allow families to place boardings, kerb sets or chippings on graves unless they are approved by a stonemason, as it allows the grounds to be maintained without risk of damaging any plastic or wooden surrounds placed there and protects the health and safety of workers and visitors.”