South Africa
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Funeral association warns of rise in theft of bodies

The National Funeral Practitioners Association has called for an intervention following a rise in theft of bodies.

In an interview with Newzroom Afrika on Monday evening, Muzi Hlengwa of the association said there is a fraud syndicate that steals bodies, gives them a new identity, register a death certificate for insurance claims.

According to Hlengwa, some even go as far as conducting funerals to legitimise their claims.

“We’ve been following this for some time and two weeks ago a body was admitted at one of small undertakers. The undertaker pretended that the body was from home when it actually came from a hospital. When the body was released to the ‘family’, they couldn’t identify it. We found that the body had been sold for R3,000. They were supposed to cook documents to claim insurance then return the body to the real family. We called police after the ‘family’ couldn’t identify the body,” he told the news channel.

Hlengwa said this was also made possible by funeral parlours that did not do a daily count of bodies, saying in one of the cases, the body went missing for three days without the parlour noticing.

Earlier this year, Hawks members from the Durban Serious Commercial Crime arrested four suspects including a funeral parlour wonder, aged between 39 and 61, for fraud.

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According to Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo, two of the suspects allegedly took out a life cover using an identity document of the victim.

“In September 2017, the two lodged a claim alleging that the insured person passed away. An insurance company’s forensic investigator smelt a rat and probed the claim,” said Mhlongo.

“Preliminary investigation revealed that the person whose identity document was used is still alive, a wrong body was allegedly sent to the doctor through the arrested funeral parlour owner and the two suspects who were supposed beneficiaries of the insurance were not related to the insured person. It was further revealed that the fourth suspect allegedly provided the identity document to her accomplices. A potential loss of R110,000 was halted.  

A case of fraud was reported at Durban North police station and the case docket was allocated to Hawks members for intensive investigation.