The Co-operative Funeral Service has avoided a costly public liability insurance payout, despite cremating the wrong body.

A Co-op staff member in Bath collected the body of a woman from the local hospital, instead of a man with a similar surname, and she was cremated in the man's place at the Haycombe crematorium. The mistake was not discovered until after the funeral.

But a Co-op spokesman said the bereaved families of both would not take further action. The woman's ashes were later buried and the man cremated.

“We'll obviously see what we can do to help in terms of funeral costs,” the spokesman said. “The two families want to move on from this.”

The funeral service is owned by CWS, the same parent company as Co-operative Insurance Services (CIS) but, although CIS provides some insurance for CWS enterprises, it does not cover the Co-operative Funeral Service in Bath.

However, the funeral service said it was well covered with public liability insurance to cope with such incidents.

The funeral worker involved has been “severely disciplined”, the spokesman said.

“We have very clearly laid-out policies in funeral procedure but we can't take into account human error,” he said.