An astonished woman who thought she had scattered her mother's ashes 16 years ago received a phone call last week from the funeral director asking her to come and pick them up.
Valerie Bloor was contacted by a worker at Southall Funeral Service - which cremated the body of her mother, Elsie Blackwell, in 1991 - because the firm was clearing out ashes which had never been collected.
The 64-year-old was stunned by the request as she had already mixed what she believed to be her mother's remains with those of her father, William Blackwell, before scattering them on their wedding anniversary.
The firm in Western Road, Southall has apologised unreservedly to Mrs Bloor, but is at a loss to explain how the mix-up happened.
"I'm disgusted," said Mrs Bloor, of Blandford Road, Norwood Green. "The man called and said he had a delicate matter to put to me - that I've never come to pick up my mother's ashes.
"I was distraught after she died. My late husband took me down there and he might have signed for them.
"Her wish was that her ashes would be put in with my father's ashes in his casket, and that they would be scat-tered on their wedding anniversary on March 26, 1992. That was her wish and that's what I carried out.
"I don't know whose ashes I scat-tered, but they certainly weren't my mother's. Whose ashes did they give me? It's taken them 17 and a half years to get in touch. I wonder how many other people they've done this to."
Jennifer Tiney, senior partner at Southall Funeral Service, said no ashes had been discovered missing in the 17 years since Mrs Blackwell's cremation, and there was no record of Mrs Bloor collecting the ashes at any time previously.
She said: "We've been in business for 26 years and this is the first time we've had a problem with ashes. I really am very sorry, I honestly don't know how it happened.
"All the ashes are either scattered at the crematorium, or they are kept until the family requests them. We do occasionally have people who leave ashes here for a long time."