Frankie Howerd's lover to be dug up

Family feud continues

Frankie Howerd’s grave is to be dug up on Monday so the body of his long-term partner can be removed from their shared plot.

The move is part of the long-standing feud between Howerd’s sister Betty and Chris Byrne, the adopted son of Howerd and his lover Dennis Heymer.

Heymer died in May, soon after marrying Byrne in a civil ceremony, and was buried in the same plot as Howerd at St Gregory's Church in Weare, Somerset.

But now Byrne has ordered his Egyptian-style be exhumed because there is not enough room to add Heymer’s name to Frankie's headstone.

The reason is that Betty had extra words inscribed on it in 2002, prompting Byrne to observe: ‘If Dennis was to be buried with the man he loved, it seemed he had to be buried as a pauper in an unmarked grave.’

He spent £3,000 on a new plot, 4ft away, plus a heart-shaped memorial containing the inscription: ‘Dennis Heymer died May 15, aged 79. Reunited with old friend Frankie Howerd OBE, his late partner. May the angel ring out, rest in peace. From your civil partner, Chris Byrne.’

Byrne told the Daily Mail: ‘It’s not the same - there is a gap between them now - but it was the best I could do. At least their names can be together on one stone and Dennis’s grave does not have to go unmarked.’

Betty has never been a fan of Bryne’s. Earlier this year, when he was touting Howerd’s diaries around potential publishers, she said bluntly: ‘I do not believe Frankie ever kept a diary. I cannot recall ever seeing a diary, or Frankie writing in one.

‘I was very close to Frankie… [and] I don’t know who Chris Byrne is. I’ve never met him and I would bet my life that Frankie didn’t know him either, or if he did meet him, he didn’t know him very well. He didn’t attend Frankie's funeral and wasn't mentioned in his will, which I would have expected if he was such a close friend of Frankie’s.’

Byrne’s marriage to Heymer just before his death was the subject of much speculation that it was a ruse to avoid inheritance tax on Howerd’s estate, including his country home at Wavering Down, Somerset, where Byrne now lives.rn

Published: 25 Sep 2009

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