THE man in charge of Newport cemeteries has apologised for the upset caused to people on discovering loved ones were buried in the wrong graves.

Tom Chaloner, (pictured) head of Newport council's environmental services, said the new staff had been "working their socks off" to correct the mistakes made at St Woolos Cemetery 20 years ago and that a new code of practice would stop it happening again.

The Argus exclusively revealed on Wednesday how dozens of bodies may be buried under the wrong gravestones in blocks 99 and 101 at the cemetery.

The cemetery's superintendent at the time was sacked for the errors which took place between 1979 and 1981 and the new procedures brought in.

The view was taken at the time that relatives would be informed only if a second interment took place in a grave where a mistake had been made, and Mr Chaloner said he stood by that decision.

Mr Chaloner, a junior officer when the situation arose, said: "The officers and councillors at the time made a very sensible decision when they discovered the mistakes.

"There's no point upsetting 1,000 people if only a small percentage of the grave spaces are wrong.

"It would be like a ploughed field if graves were dug up all over the place." He added: "As soon as we knew things were going wrong in 1980, we made it common practice that at every subsequent interment the name plate would be checked so we put everybody in the right grave.

"The new staff are trying to work this problem out and this doesn't reflect well on them. "They should be given a huge amount of credit for all the work done. We are pretty confident the majority are now in the right place."

Mr Chaloner said a triple check was now carried out on the identity of each new burial. "We brought in the code of practice to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said. "The procedure at the time was not in writing, but the new procedure is circulated to all staff every year and they have to sign that they have read it.

"Over the last 20 years the majority of the grave spaces have been made correct, but we will be left with this problem probably after you and I are dead. It will be left with Newport a long time.

"If people are concerned, we would advise them to wait until the second interment, but if they wish to discuss this they can ring the helpline - 01633 232812."