Singapore—Several families recently found out that the graves where they pay respects to their dearly departed relatives do not in fact contain their kin after all.

One such man, Marn Chuan Lee, discovered that the grave which he thought belonged to his grandmother, turned out to be someone else’s.

Mr Marn found out about this error when the grave, located at Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetery, was exhumed. Upon exhumation, several items were found that Mr Marn knew did not belong to his grandmother—including a necklace which he could not recognize, some coloured pencils and stuffed toys.

For almost four decades, Mr Marn had not only visited this grave to pay his respects at least once every three months, the Straits Times (ST) reports, but he had endeavoured to keep the grave site clean and in order and had even placed garden lights by her headstone.

He expressed his shock to ST, saying, “I thought I was going crazy. It felt like someone kidnapped her and we had no idea where she could be.”

Mr Marn told the  National Environment Agency (NEA) about the mislabeled grave, and the agency then exhumed the two graves beside the one that was supposed to have been Mr Marn’s grandmother’s on October 2.

The ST report says that upon analyzing the matter, the NEA determined that one of the graves had a headstone that had misaligned, which caused an error in the adding of the other grave plots adjacent to the misaligned tombstone.

However, the grave plots beside the one that was labeled as belonging to Mr Marn’s grandmother contained articles of men’s clothing and had none of the belongings that his grandmother had buried with.

On October Mr Marn’s grandmother’s actual grave was finally discovered after the NEA had five additional graves dug up.

A spokesman from the NEA said that these burials were all done 39 years ago on the same day.

“The next of kin of one of the grave plots did not erect a headstone, and due to the misalignment, one of the headstones was found to be straddling the space over two grave plots,” the spokesman explained.

Since the error was discovered, the remains of the bodies in the mistagged grave plots have been verified via their families.

In total, the wrong alignment of one headstone had resulted in nine graves being mislabeled.

The agency apologized for the error and said that out of the 16,800 exhumations it has carried out due to its exhumation programme at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery, there have been no other errors encountered.

The programme’s Phase 7A involves the Chinese cemetery. The NEA website reads,On 18 July 2017, the Government announced that 45,500 Chinese graves at the Choa Chu Kang (CCK) Chinese Cemetery would be exhumed for future expansion of the Tengah Airbase (TAB). NEA had on 27 September 2017 announced Phase 7 of the CCK Cemetery exhumation programme which consisted of 45,000 affected Chinese graves. Now, NEA will undertake the exhumation of the remaining affected Chinese graves under Phase 7A of the CCK Cemetery exhumation programme.

Graves affected under Phase 7A of the exhumation programme are located along Chinese Cemetery Path 8, between Chinese Cemetery Path 3 and Path 11 within the CCK Chinese Cemetery.”/ TISG

Read also: Space-starved Asian cities exhume graves to make space, including Singapore’s own ‘living museum’ Bukit Brown cemetery