AN elderly widower has won a battle to reclaim thousands of pounds after money paid into a funeral plan could not be used for his wife’s service because she died abroad.

Hiralal Paul, from Bromley Cross, and his wife of 45 years Nilima, had been paying for two separate fixed monthly payment plans with Co-operative Funeralcare since 2008.

Mrs Paul, aged 71, died from heart failure on the morning of December 19 while the couple were on holiday in Kolkata, West Bengal.

As with Hindu tradition, Mrs Paul had to be cremated as soon as possible after her death, so a service was held later that day.

But after getting in touch with his family, Mr Paul was told that the Co-op could not pay out for the funeral as it had taken place abroad and the policy only covers services that occur in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Paul said the process of getting the money back had been hard on him.

He said: “Half of me is gone, I’m completely changed. I’m not the same person I was.

“It’s all been too much for me to take. It feels like there’s nothing I can do, it was like I was knocking on heavy doors.”

Since he returned to Bolton last month, the 72-year-old has been attempting to close his account and get the money back, which he claims totals £4,415.48. Refunds usually aren’t given more than 30 days after purchasing the plan.

But after The Bolton News got in touch with Co-operative Funeralcare, the company said they would refund Mr Paul in full due to the “unique circumstances”.

A spokesman for Co-op Funeralcare said: “We would like to offer our condolences to Mr Hiralal Paul on the loss of his wife and apologise for the upset caused at this difficult time.

“Due to the very unique circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Hiralal Paul’s wife, we will be providing a full refund on the payments made.”

Mr Paul said he was pleased to have his money back but said he wanted to make sure it did not happen to anyone else.

He said: “I just don’t understand why it didn’t happen earlier. I have no dispute with the policy of not paying for funeral’s abroad. It’s just that the money does not belong to them.

“I just wanted my and my wife’s money back, as simple as that.”

Mr and Mrs Paul were married in an arranged marriage in India in 1971 before Mrs Paul flew out to live with her husband in Bromley Cross in 1974.

They have two sons – Jensen, aged 42, and Joydeep, aged 40.

Mr Paul wished to thank both The Bolton News and Co-operative Funeralcare for helping to get the money back.