The remains of a 95-year-old man have been dug up in a moonlit cemetery raid and moved to another grave three miles away.
The coffin of Joseph 'Josie' Graham -- who had been buried for two years -- was illegally exhumed from his grave at a rural cemetery in Clounanna, Co Limerick, and reburied at St Mary's graveyard in the nearby village of Patrickswell.
A bottle of holy water and a small statue of the Virgin Mary mark his new burial place.
The exhumation was illegal because the law requires that a priest, guard and environmental officer be present, but no such official was in the Clounanna cemetery.
The bizarre incident occurred on the morning of February 26.
Mr Graham's body was placed in the freshly dug grave before anyone had noticed the disturbance at the previous resting spot.
Limerick County Council confirmed that no exhumation order had been made to remove the bachelor's remains from Clounanna graveyard where Mr Graham was laid to rest in February 2009. But it had received an application to buy the new plot for the dead man from a Limerick undertaker in recent weeks.
The council has responsibility for the maintenance and regulation of burial grounds and issues special licences for exhumations.
The applications are only granted if strict guidelines are adhered to, including permission from the deceased's family. Mr Graham had a number of distant relatives living in Limerick but it is understood that none were mentioned on the correspondence received by the council.
The incident has shocked the community of Patrickswell. One local family, who owns the plot where Mr Graham was previously buried, has denied any involvement in moving his remains.
Liam Shinnors, the caretaker of St Mary's graveyard, told the Irish Independent that he was not present on the day the remains were brought to the new cemetery.
"A reputable undertaker contacted me beforehand looking for a plot and I allotted it to them. That is all I know," Mr Shinnors said.
The undertaker who purchased the plot on behalf of an applicant of the deceased said it was "a private matter" and did not wish to comment further.
It is not yet known whether the council or the gardai will attempt to prosecute those responsible for illegally exhuming the remains.