A NEWPORT man has described how he was left devastated after his beloved sister's grave was damaged by careless workmen.

Mahbub Ali, 42, said he had gone to visit the grave of his sister, Shamshad Begum, in the city's Christchurch Cemetery, last month, to find it had been damaged.

The grave did not have a headstone, but rather was marked with a raised mound of earth, which had been gathered by Mr Ali, with flowers and lights placed on it.

But Mr Ali said Newport City Council workers carrying out work to level graves in the cemetery and sow grass seed flattened the grave and set aside the flowers and lights, damaging them in the process.

The council say had put up signs in the cemetery informing people that the work would be occurring - but that several had been stolen.

Mr Ali claims that he was given no notice of the works and was not asked for permission to alter his sister's grave - something he claims the council needed to seek from him before carrying out work on the site.

He also challenged claims that signs were put up in the cemetery, saying neither he nor any of his friends or members of his family had seen any.

Mr Ali said: "We've got this property and land from the council, they couldn't just come into your home and start knocking down walls without your permission.

"It took me a while to make the grave with a different clay made from hay and mud, when I saw it broken, it broke my heart.

"If they are worried about the earth, why aren't they worried about the side pavements where they've got big holes and ditches?

"Why don't they fill them up and cover them up? They are more hazardous to public safety than sunken graves.

"If they wanted to do something to the grave then they could have put a plastic sheet over it, we had heavy rain."

Ms Begum was buried in 2016 and Mr Ali said that even if any new rules have been imposed since then, he still needed to give permission to allow work to be carried out.

He did concede that he had not seen any terms and conditions regarding the land and only had the grant of exclusive rights to burial, which lasts for 50 years. The grant says that it is subject to orders, byelaws and regulations for the time affecting the burial ground.

The council did apologise to Mr Ali, but he claims he was not given an answer as to why the grave was disturbed.

He also said he had not received a written apology as requested, but instead was apologised to over the phone.

No explanation for what happened was given to the family, despite them contacting numerous local politicians and the council directly.

He said: "I would accept their apologies, but they can't be going ram-raiding people's graves without any notification.

"I have had no reasons or response for why this happened."

A council spokeswoman said: "We regret that recent work in the cemeteries has caused concern to a family and we have apologised for any distress caused by the initial work.

"However, the area has now been reinstated with topsoil and sown with grass seed.

"Items left on graves are carefully put to one side of the grave where they can be collected by family or friends.

"It was part of standard operational work, which includes topping up sunken graves and levelling the ground so that grass seed can be sown, being carried out in all Newport council cemeteries.

"This is to help keep them as tidy as possible and make them more pleasant for people who are visiting the graves of loved ones.

"Areas have been cleared of stones and rocks to enable the safe use of mowers and strimmers and avoid risk to operators, members of the public and the machinery during grass cutting operation.

"Inclement weather means that sometimes the work has to be paused but is resumed as soon as the ground conditions are favourable.

"Signs were installed in the cemetery advising visitors that the work was being carried out but, unfortunately, some of these were stolen."


The grave has since been tidied up, but it is far from how it appeared before the work was carried out.

Mr Ali denied that his sister's grave had sunk, saying he and his family visit very often and saw no sign of this occurring. He also said that there were no stones or rocks near the grave that would interfere with mowers and strimmers.

Mr Ali said the incident had caused him significant mental distress.

"At night it is like my sister is calling me because it was leaking in her grave," said Mr Ali.

"My family are shocked and mentally disturbed by it - the whole family is really upset.

"I just want this to be resolved and get my sister's grave back to normal the way it was so I can carry on with my life and make sure that they don't do these acts again on someone else."