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Last-minute funeral price hike sees grieving Holloway husband billed extra £800 hours before wife’s cremation

PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:52 06 October 2017

Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock

Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Emily Thornberry and a bereavement charity have called for a young dad who was unexpectedly billed an extra £795 hours before his wife’s cremation to be refunded.

Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock

Gbenga Ajina’s wife Aminat died of bowel cancer in February aged just 37, leaving him to bring up their eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter single-handedly.

The bus driver paid £6,936 to funeral director Melville and Daughters for his wife’s funeral, with the cost of a burial plot in Islington and Camden Cemetery estimated at £2,555. But the night before the funeral Gbenga was told the price had increased to £3,350.

Gbenga, from Biddestone Road, Holloway, felt he had no choice but to agree to pay the extra £795 so the funeral, which was all arranged for the next day, could take place.

He told the Gazette this week: “I was feeling very bad for what was going on in my life. I was not myself. I couldn’t eat for days. It’s like I didn’t know where I was. And for them to call me like that was really unexpected. I was crying.

"I was feeling very bad for what was going on in my life. I was not myself. I couldn’t eat for days. It’s like I didn’t know where I was. And for them to call me like that was really unexpected. I was crying."

Gbenga Ajina

“They said: ‘Say if you want it, but if you don’t then let us cancel it.’ It’s had a very big impact because I have the children. There are a lot of things I have to pay for like childcare and this and that – it’s been a struggle.

“Aminat was a very lovely woman. It’s hard to deal with my children alone - it’s very hard for me. I didn’t realise she was going to die so soon and it was a shock.”

But director Damian Melville told the Gazette the situation had been beyond his control, adding he had given Gbenga an extra fortnight to pay in light of the “unfortunate circumstances”.

“All of our clients are given estimates well in advance of a funeral,” he said. “They are estimates and are subject to change.

Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock Gbenga Ajina at his wife's grave. Picture: Polly Hancock

“In every case we advise our clients at the earliest opportunity of any changes when we are made aware of them. These are usually confirmed on our final invoice which is payable seven days after the funeral has taken place. In Mr Ajina’s case we extended our payment terms to 21 days in light of the circumstances.”

He added: “The price for his late wife’s burial plot was confirmed to us at 1pm the day before the funeral and we advised him immediately but that it would not be payable until after the funeral.

“The circumstances are unfortunate and we do sympathise with Mr Ajina – however, we were simply making the payment on his behalf.”

Heather Kennedy from Quaker charity the Fair Funerals Campaign, which has taken on Gbenga’s case, said: “Our view is that it’s the responsibility of the funeral director to quote people the correct price and they should have accurate price lists for customers.”

Islington South and Finsbury MP Ms Thornberry has also written to Melville and Daughters asking for the money to be returned. Mr Melville said he had responded to her letter explaining the change in price, but never heard back.

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