Grieving relatives have contemplated exhuming their dead baby girl – after a vicar banned them from laying artificial flowers at her grave.
When Rebecca Eales died at only three weeks old, her devastated family laid her to rest at St James’ Church in Quedgeley, Gloucester.
But they started to notice that silk flowers placed around her headstone were being taken by the vicar, who said he only wants real flowers in his churchyard.
The row has left the family “hurt beyond belief”, but the Rev Geoff Stickland is standing by those rules. Rebecca died due to a heart defect in 1988.
The family said silk flowers have been removed from Rebecca’s grave many times since then.
Her mum Elizabeth Mills, who grew up in Quedgeley but now lives in Somerset, said: “What this vicar has done to me has made me feel that I have not wanted to visit my daughters grave.
“As any parent that has lost a child knows the feelings are unimaginable.”
Mrs Mills now has three grown-up children of her own, Kymberley 21, Charlotte 19, and Harvey 15.
Rebecca’s grandfather Ivor Mills, 80, who lives in Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, said: “We are so upset, because the baby had not long been interred when we first saw flowers go.
“We let it lie at the time, but then more recently we saw silk flowers on graves over here at Lydney, Bream and Coleford and they look very nice, so why can’t we do it?”
He and his wife Barbara, 77, have put silk flowers down four or five times in recent years and they have vanished.
He said he has spoken to Mr Stickland’s wife about the matter but he said she told him they only wanted natural flowers.
He said: “I asked her whether she meant that was the rule for poppies for Remembrance. “We were annoyed about it but what can you do?
“We looked in to having her exhumed and putting her in Lydney. The undertaker said it would have to go through the Home Office and it could be a rather long process and quite expensive.”
The family said they were put off exhuming the body because of the cost, but want the church to change its rules.
Mr Stickland said the regulations are clearly marked and have been in place for many years.
He said: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison, as my dad used to say. Taste is something someone cannot legislate for.
“Many parishes enforce them, others don’t because of controversies like this.”
He added that he kept the silk flowers in a safe place, and the family were able to retrieve them if they wished.