COUNCIL chiefs today issued a grovelling apology to a grieving family for dumping a mound of dirt on a loved one’s grave.

But it was too little too late for the relatives of John Garnham who criticised their words as “not good enough”.

As revealed by the Daily Echo, sisters Christine Honour, Carol Penman and Lesley Garnham were left shocked and disgusted when they saw workmen had left a huge mountain of earth on their brother John’s grave on the anniversary of his death.

They made the harrowing discovery and were reduced to tears during the annual visit to Millbrook Cemetery to mark 28 years since he died at the age of 29.

Now council bosses have issued an apology revealing that workers failed to “follow protocol” – and even went as far as sending flowers to the family.

Cabinet member for environment and transport at Southampton City Council, Cllr Jacqui Rayment, said: “The team has tried repeatedly today to contact the family to offer a personal apology for the distress and upset caused by this unfortunate incident.

“In a busy working cemetery where burials are requested in family graves there is sometimes no alternative but to place the excavated soil on neighbouring graves until the funeral takes place. The graves are protected before the soil is placed on them and restored to their original condition after the soil has been removed.

“Usually soil is not placed on graves at or around an anniversary, and we are very sorry that this protocol was not followed on this occasion.”

But Christine, 46, a nursery teacher, said she remained angry.

She said: “The council can’t get round people by sending them flowers. We should have been informed.

“Action should be taken so it doesn’t happen to other families in future.”

John’s daughter, Stacey Birkett, 34, a mum-of-two from Shirley, added: “There’s no excuse. There’s space for soil to be put elsewhere. I don’t think they should get away with that at all, no matter whose grave it is.”