A family were in “absolute disbelief” to discover their dead relative had a stranger buried on top of their loved one days after the funeral.

Basheer Meghjee – a 76-year-old semi-retired accountant from Stanmore who also had links to Croxley Green – was laid to rest at Woodcock Hill Cemetery in Rickmansworth after he died of Covid-19 on March 25 last year.

On March 27 he was buried at the Muslim section of the cemetery that is leased to the charity BW Foundation and co-managed with Three Rivers District Council.

Then just 12 days later after the funeral, his family were unaware that the grave was opened up so that the corpse of an unrelated stranger could share the same grounds.

It was from there that the Meghjee family discovered that they unwittingly signed a form consenting to a two-tier burial policy that was in place at the time due to the foundation expecting a rise of Covid burials.

While the BW Foundation claims the family were made aware this would happen, nephew Monty Meghjee from Rickmansworth pointed out that his grieving family and other families around the time were not explicitly told of the change in policy.

Basheer Meghjee was buried at Woodcock Hill Cemetery (Photo: Family handout)

Basheer Meghjee was buried at Woodcock Hill Cemetery (Photo: Family handout)

He admits the family signed documentation, but points out it was “morally and ethically” wrong that the foundation did not verbally indicate this would happen – as the grieving family were distraught and in a rush to bury the deceased.

An important ritual under Islamic faith is that a burial happens as quickly as possible after a death, so the religious urgency on top of the general grief meant that many grieving families were unlikely to notice the new alarming policy that was set up at the time.

“We signed - we never read it and we should have read it, but you trust these people,” he said. “We wanted to make sure whatever we need to do, we get done in time. They could have put anything in front of me and I would have signed it.”

The nephew told the Watford Observer that he only became aware of it when a number of people in his local mosque questioned Mr Meghjee whether his uncle was sharing a grave, which he believed was not the case.

“We said it can’t be, why would anybody do that? I know the cemetery quite well and my mum is buried there.

“There’s so much space that there is no need to do that. Everyday more and more people started asking us, and I just kept saying it’s not possible.”

The shared grave of Basheer Meghjee (Photo: Family handout)

The shared grave of Basheer Meghjee (Photo: Family handout)

Eventually a relative texted a trustee to ask if it was true, which the trustee admitted to.

Mr Meghjee claims when the trustee was asked “don’t you think you should have told us”, that the trustee said they would “take it into account for next time”.

“No remorse, no nothing, just the very matter of fact,” he added.

When the cemetery reopened in late April, he went to visually check if this was true.

He said: “It was shocking, I was in absolute absolute disbelief. We know the trustees who run it. Why would anybody do that to anyone?

“Then you start thinking is my uncle at peace, is anybody at peace at that point?”

“Even today I just can’t believe it’s happening,” he added.

Woodcock Hill Cemetery in Rickmansworth (Photo: Street View)

Woodcock Hill Cemetery in Rickmansworth (Photo: Street View)

Had the family been aware of the two-tier burial policy, the family would have sought another cemetery.

The issue was then taken to High Court: “We wanted them to stop it happening to anybody else, we obviously wanted to rectify what was wrong that happened to us.”

The judge ruled that the foundation acted “properly and with sensitivity throughout”.

While the two-tier process of burials stopped on June 27, Mr Meghjee discovered days before that it was happening again at a neighbouring grave-plot to Mustafa Ibrahim, aged 72 from Watford, who died with Covid on April 5 last year.

Mustafa Ibrahim (Photo: Family handout)

Mustafa Ibrahim (Photo: Family handout)

Mr Ibrahim’s daughters only discovered that their father was sharing a grave after Mr Meghjee actively sought to contact the family.

His daughter Yucel Ibrahim, who was aged 21 at the time, said that she felt the foundation “took advantage” of the “vulnerable” grieving girls.

The day before the burial they were asked to sign the declaration form and the girls noticed the two-tier burial notice – but Miss Ibrahim says they were reassured this would not apply to them and would only possibly happen if the cemetery was full up.

“We signed it in trust in hand thinking it’s not going to happen, because he made it very clear it doesn’t apply,” she said.

Yugel Ibrahim with her father Mustafa (Photo: Family handout)

Yugel Ibrahim with her father Mustafa (Photo: Family handout)

Cllr Paula Hiscocks for Rickmansworth Town said: "I have been shocked and appalled that these burials have taken place.

"There is plenty of space in this section of our cemetery to have  continued with only family plots; also this extreme policy should have been discussed by the elected councillors before it commenced.

"I have to ask who gave authorisation for the change of policy?"

The BW Foundation told BBC News: “On the day before, the family received a telephone call to explain the new burial policy, they were emailed document sot ensure their understanding and acceptance (which they returned as agreed) and they returned a signed and witnessed hard copy acceptance of the policy before the burial.

“On that basis and in good faith, BW Foundation arranged the burial with Three Rivers District Council.”

Mr Meghjee claims the telephone call mentioned was a prompt to sign the form, and not an explanation of the burial process.

Despite the foundation not taking accountability in the morality of how families were informed, Mr Meghjee believes an apology is still due.

“Sometimes things happen where it’s not your fault, but you’re still sorry for it,” he said.

He added: “They pressure you, they rush you and convince you that they’ll sort everything out. You just trust them.”

Basheer Meghjee was described as a “loving family man” and “reasonably fit” – as he remained strong-willed even near the end. He was married, had two children and three grandchildren.

Meanwhile Mr Ibrahim, a former taxi-driver in Watford, was described as a “funny character” who everyone loved.

The handling of the two-tier burial process, and a related long-standing issue regarding deeds to the gravestones, has been taken up to the Local Government Ombudsman.