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The ashes of a 12-year-old girl who died precisely 46 years ago have been discovered in a park – with the cemetery where she was cremated launching an appeal in a bid to trace her relatives. Yvonne Harrison, from Preston, who died on 3 February 1977, was cremated at Preston Cemetery.

Passer-by Emma Lawless, 34, found an oak casket containing her ashes hidden in undergrowth in Hesketh Park in Southport, Merseyside last summer.

She told BBC North West Tonight: “Me and my two daughters come to the park all the time, and I just noticed a wooden box.

“I came back the week after and saw it was still here, so I thought ‘I wonder if it’s empty or full still?’.

“So I just gently picked it up, and it was really heavy.

“It was a really clean, bright wooden box. It just didn’t look right, it stood out.”

Ms Lawless, who reported the discovery to Preston Council in June, added: “Losing a child must be horrendous anyway, and then to lose the ashes again must be heart-breaking if that’s the case.”

Chris Brown, who works for the cemetery, explained: “We received a phone call from Southport crematorium.

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“Any set of ashes is really important that it is in the correct hands, but in this case, with it being a child, I think it’s really important that the ashes are reunited with the family.”

It was highly unusual for ashes to be lost, Mr Brown said.

He added: “I’ve been doing this job for 13 years and this is the first time it has happened to me.

“I don’t believe it has happened to anyone else – it’s unheard of really… just to find a set of ashes in a casket, in the middle of a park.”