The UK’s biggest burial site for Turks, Tottenham Park Cemetery, has been bought by a group of British Turkish businessmen. The North London site is currently under investigation by the Ministry of Justice for possible overuse and other alleged poor practices.
The new owners are said to include Mustafa Darı (the largest shareholder), and well-known stonemason İbrahim Özkuş and his son-in-law Murat Polat, who own headstone business I&C Memorials.
No official announcement has been made by the new owners or the previous owner, Peter Demetriou. However, the new owners have introduced themselves to Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, who is spearheading the campaign to bring private burial grounds, such as Tottenham Park Cemetery, in line with the same regulation that governs state-owned cemeteries.
Earlier this year, Enfield Council made Mr Demetriou a “generous” six-figure offer to purchase the site with the intention of stopping any new burials and maintaining the cemetery as a garden of memorial. Mr Demetriou rejected the local authority’s offer and told T-VINE at the time that the cemetery “was not for sale”.
Mr Demetriou, a North London funeral director, had acquired the 2.4 hectare site from the Badgehurst family in 2019. The neglected and dangerous state of the burial ground had created severe tensions between bereaved families and Badgehurst, and led to Tottenham Park Cemetery being closed for a time by the Health and Safety Executive over fears that the derelict chapel’s spire in the middle of the site could topple and injure or kill someone.
A 2018 inspection by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) into the privately-run cemetery found the complaints of relatives to have been justified. The MoJ report deemed the burial ground to be “full” and that only burials for reserved plots should be permitted.
Although Mr Demetriou has made improvements to the burial ground, including better security and new facilities such as toilets, and improved the maintenance of the site, many bereaved families believe some of the previous bad practices are still continuing. They accused Mr Demetriou of failing to respect the dignity of their dead relatives by digging up existing graves to make way for new burials and for failing to keep proper records.
There are around 6,000 plots across Tottenham Park Cemetery, which first opened in 1912. Most plots have been reused for burials multiple times, with an estimated seven internments in many graves. Relatives and funeral directors have expressed serious concerns that every new burial is disturbing the remains of those already buried there.
Hundreds of families lobbied the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to open a new inspection into Tottenham Park Cemetery, which it did earlier this year. Mr Demetriou was expected to make good on an action plan set by the MoJ at the end of this month.
It’s not sure whether Mr Demetriou delivered on any of the agreed actions, including presenting a complete record and map of graves in the cemetery, and issuing burial deeds to the relatives of all those buried at Tottenham Park Cemetery since 2019.
T-VINE has contacted Mr Demetriou and the new owners of Tottenham Park Cemetery for comment.