PEOPLE visiting loved ones buried at a Newport cemetery may have been tending the wrong graves for more than two decades.

The council has admitted that up to 20 per cent of the 735 graves in Block 99 at St Woolos Cemetery may not contain the body of the person named on the headstone.

Alan Perchard found out last year he had been visiting an empty grave for 20 years - his great uncle, Frederick Osborne, had been buried in a different row in 1981.

Mr Perchard, of Darren Road, Risca, only discovered the mistake when he asked for his aunt, Florence Richardson, to be buried in the same plot in 2001.

"If I hadn't had a daft feeling of nostalgia and not wanted my aunt buried alone, I still wouldn't know," he said.

In a letter to Mr Perchard following the incident, Newport council's strategic director Brian Adcock said the cemetery superintendent responsible for the mistakes had been sacked and that a burial code of practice had been introduced.

He said: "We are confident that over 80 per cent of the graves are now correctly marked. However, we are obviously unable to say how many people will remain in incorrectly marked graves as we cannot excavate every grave to check the name plate on the coffin (any excavation always needs the grave owners written consent)."

But Mr Adcock said the grave owners had not been contacted to ask if they wanted them re-opened.

"The council took the view at the time that because not every grave was wrongly marked there was no point in causing unnecessary distress to the relatives when their graves could be already correctly marked," he said.

"It was therefore decided that as each grave was re-opened for burial, any wrong burials would be thus identified and dealt with appropriately."

Tredegar Park councillor Garry Brown tried to raise the issue at yesterday's council meeting but was prevented by deputy mayor councillor Glyn Jarvis, who said it had happened too long ago.

Mr Perchard said: "I thought I would give them the opportunity to address it before I go to the Ombud-sman. People have not been given the opportunity to have the graves reopened for discovery purposes and I believe their behaviour is absolutely scandalous."

*PICTURED: Alan Pritchard at the spot where he believes his great uncle was buried at St Woolos Cemetery, Newport.