A grieving son had to smash his mother’s gravestone to pieces with a sledgehammer after being ordered to remove it by the church. Mark Doe and his family rushed to install the gravestone – which included three roses in the design – on his mother Shirley Jone’s grave. But the church decided the design was too lavish and insisted it be removed by 4pm on Friday.

Devastated Mr Doe was forced to take a sledgehammer to his mother’s memorial when the stone could not be removed from the ground at St Mary’s Church in Pulborough, Sussex. He said: “It was really upsetting. We had a hearing at the church on Tuesday and the Diocese of Chichester ruled that the headstone had to be removed. They said the design was too elaborate. They said the headstone had to be removed completely by Friday.

“The stone had been there since December 21. We rushed to make sure it was there before Christmas, then two weeks later they told us they wanted it removed. We’d had talks with the vicar before choosing the headstone. It wasn’t even anything particularly lavish – it came from a catalogue. Father Paul originally agreed to it, but then he kept saying he thought it was only going to be one rose and it was three – but that was actually a mistake by the stonemason.