The grieving family of a British woman who died in Spain claim she was held in a “freezer” for two months – and now faces a £5,500 bill they can’t pay.
Carole Hawke, 74, died June 30 at her home near the village of Competa in southern Spain.
After her death, Carole was held in a freezer at a funeral home in Malaga for six weeks and her family is still fighting to put her to rest.
She was cremated on August 26 but the family say they have not yet seen a death certificate and are now being asked to pay the house just over £5,460 for her ashes.
Her son Dale told The Sun that without access to her estate he would be unable to make the payment and without a death certificate he would not have access to the funds tied up in her estate.
Unable to pay the huge bill for Carole’s ashes, the grieving family is stuck in a vicious cycle.
He said: “They said they would not release the ashes until the bill was paid.”
“I do not have anything.
“My mother must be buried first before a death certificate is issued.
“We still don’t have a death certificate and without one we can’t do anything, we can’t do notary work, we can’t do probate.”
Since then, Dale has hired lawyers as part of his fight to have his mother’s ashes released.
The family told The Sun that no one could find her will and her bank account was blocked.
Without a death certificate, they cannot move forward with probate to “prove” the contents of their will in court so that their family can hopefully get the money they need to bring them home.
When a British expat dies in Spain, the funeral director is responsible for registering the death, rather than the family as in the UK.
Registration takes place via the local Spanish registry office and then means that a family can receive the death certificate of their loved one.
Carole’s worried son Dale, 46, flew to Spain on August 10 to see if he could get the death certificate and begin the cremation.
But just a week later he had to return to England without both.
His mother was cremated about a week after his return to the UK at La Esperenza funeral home in Malaga, an hour’s drive from Competa.
Dale now faces the enormous funeral home bill, as well as legal fees, travel expenses and costs associated with the villa, without any hope of accessing her estate.
He told The Sun: “I was out there for a week. The villa was a state. It was terrible to see how my mother lived in the last years of her life.”
“I wanted to scatter my mother’s ashes and put her to rest. My mother’s final wish was that her ashes be scattered alongside my father’s in her villa.”
“I’m angry, I’m pretty upset. That’s the only thing I wanted to do: give my mother peace.”
Her sister Elizabeth, from Great Yarmouth, said Carole bought the villa where she lived with her husband Roger, who died nine years ago.
Elizabeth, 73, has described the funeral home’s treatment of her sister as “disrespectful”.
She told The Sun that they were “refusing permission”. [Carole’s ashes] go”.
“They want their money first… It’s created one big problem after another.”
Former British Army soldier Carole dropped to around 4 after suffering from kidney failure, which is why she received dialysis before her death.
The mother-of-one lived in Competa for 20 years after moving there from Chelmsford, Essex, in 2003.
Elizabeth told The Sun: “My sister became unwell, she was rapidly deteriorating. I was worried because I couldn’t reach her. I asked the police if they could carry out a check but they said they hadn’t.
“She was found by a paramedic who had come to take her for dialysis. It’s not nice how she died. She died alone in the dark in her villa. She was too sick to change the light bulbs.”
The family would like to scatter Carole’s ashes in the garden of their villa, where her late husband and two dogs were also buried.
They told The Sun that this was their final wish, but without the funds to pay the funeral home bill and without a death certificate, the grieving family will likely have to wait a while to bring Carole home.
The Sun Online has contacted La Esperenza Funeral Home for comment.