THE grieving family of an army veteran have been left devastated after everything he owned was cleared from his home and dumped before his funeral had even taken place.
Christopher Potts, 58, died of mestastatic lung cancer on July 28.
He served in the Duke of Edinburgh regiment and received a medal for his time in Northern Ireland, but he also served in other countries around the world.
His grieving widow,Tracy, 54, has been given an apology by Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes after the Chronicle took up her case but she said that could never make up for the fact that all his worldy goods had ended up on a landfill site.
She said: “I went to his flat to collect some very personal and treasured memories on August 11 to find the council had not only changed the locks, but emptied his flat and disposed of all his personal items.
“Home videos, photos, books, poems and artwork absolutely everything had been processed, shredded and disposed of on August 5 just seven days after Chris had passed away. His funeral hadn’t even taken place yet.
“It was his entire life gone every memory was there.”
All Tracy has left of Chris’ are his beret, his Northern Ireland service medal and his copy of the Captain Tom book in which he was name-checked.
Everything else including his army mementoes which he stored in the same suitcase he took with him on the day he signed up to the army when he was 16 had been disposed of.
Tracy said: “We have lost absolutely everything that meant anything to us because of the incompetence of others.
“It’s all very, very wrong. They disposed of all his personal items, photos of his military service, memorabilia, clothes including his 15-year-old son’s belongings.
“They also took his late brother’s items that had been taken to Chris for safe keeping.
“We hadn’t had a chance to look through them because Chris was too poorly. They were the only things his nephews had left of the memory of their mum who had passed away when they were in their young teens.”
In a joint statement from Barnsley Council and Berneslai Homes, bosses apologised for the distress caused.
It added: “Alongside our partners at Berneslai Homes, we offer our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Potts, one of our tenants who sadly passed away.
“We understand this is an extremely difficult and upsetting time, and we have been in contact with the family to offer our support.
“We will be completing a full and thorough investigation to understand the actions taken following the termination notice for the property.
“We are deeply sorry for the distress this has caused to Mrs Potts and the family and we will continue to do all that we can to support them at this stage.”
Chris had eventually been told he was terminally ill after visiting his GP on a number of occasions because he was concerned about lumps which had appeared on his body. He was told they were cysts and to go home.
Tracy rushed him to an out-of-hours GP in May with the fear of a chest infection as he also suffered with COPD.
But what they later found out was much worse.
Tracy added: “The GP sent him immediately to the hospital as they thought it was a blood clot he had X-rays and tests.
“The very same day we got the results which were devastating it wasn’t a blood clot. Cancer had spread to his stomach, kidneys, lymph nodes and possibly bones.”
Sadly all this happened as Chris was still coming to terms with the recent death of his brother.
“Chris was distraught to say the least he hadn’t put his beloved brother to rest and he had been told he had stage four lung cancer that couldn’t be cured.”
The couple who had known each other 40 years were granted a special licence and were married in Barnsley Hospital with just two hours’ notice on June 18. Chris died in Tracy’s arms on July 28.
A fundraiser to send Chris’ ashes into space has been set up by family members.
He had always been interested in the stars and space from a young age when his brother Barry would take him to look into the sky.
After he returned home from the army, he suffered from PTSD but Barry took him out once again which helped him through a difficult time.
Tracy said: “We always joked about sending him to space.
“As a final tribute to my beloved soul mate I would like to grant him this one last wish.
“It would mean more than words can say to be able to do this for him, not only for Chris or me but his nephews too.
“We need to do something positive in light of the tragic circumstances that started just a few months ago.”
More than £500 has been raised so far, with the family setting a target of £2,950.