Fact Check

Grave Offense

Published Jun 11, 2015

After the passage of several months, an exaggerated claim about the burial site of a dead grandfather and offended Muslims is circulating again.

On 11 June 2015, the blog The Political Insider published an article titled "Dead Grandfather Could Be Dug Up Because His Grave OFFENDS MUSLIMS!" That article began:

Shadrack Smith’s family is worried that they might have to exhume the body of their beloved gypsy grandfather who was 89 years old when he died. Why? Because the family of a Muslim man buried in the neighboring plot are not happy to be buried next to someone who didn’t believe in Islam.

Below the article's first paragraph was a link to a similar article from the Daily Mail titled "Gipsy family fear great-grandfather's body 'could be EXHUMED' — because family of Muslim in neighbouring plot don't want their relative buried next to a 'non-believer.'" That article, originally published on 10 February 2015, included the following quote from Shadrack Smith's daughter-in-law:

'I feel for the Muslim family because they obviously thought they were going to only have other Muslim families buried around them, but that's not our fault, or our mistake.

'We have been in the right, and yet the council has tried to bend over backwards to please the Muslim family.'

She added: 'We have been told we might have to exhume Shady if the council decide to side with the Muslim family.

The Daily Mail's article displayed two dates: One from when it was originally published in February 2015, and a second denoting an update on 13 May 2015. The update in question (which preceded The Political Insider's article by nearly a month) explained that the local parish council had never entertained the notion of exhuming and moving Smith's body in the first place:

The original version of this story published on 10 February reported that Burbage Parish Council were to consider if Shadrack Smith should be moved to a new plot at Burbage cemetery at a meeting the following day. We are happy to make clear the Council’s position that it has never discussed or considered the exhumation of Mr Smith’s body, and we apologise for any misunderstanding.

In a separate correction published on 24 May 2015 (and updated 26 May 2015), the Daily Mail reiterated the correction appended to their initial article:

In common with other newspapers, an article of 11 February, ‘You’ll have to dig up your grandad...he’s not a Muslim’, reported that Burbage Parish Council was meeting to discuss if Mr Shadrack Smith’s body should be moved to an alternative cemetery plot. We are happy to make clear the council’s position that it has never discussed or considered an exhumation and we apologise for any misunderstanding.

It's worth noting that the Daily Mail correction came well after an 11 February 2015 article was published in the Telegraph that disproved the Daily Mail's claims. According to the Telegraph, an exhumation license could only be granted if requested by Smith's family members (and not the family members of an individual buried nearby). It isn't clear why the Daily Mail neglected to correct their article for more than three months in light of that rather pertinent detail.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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