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Grieving family begs for answers

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“We are still waiting for instructions from the funeral parlour on how we should bury him. We don’t even know if we can take the body to the house for the service.”

WHILE the devastated family of last week’s suicide victim are planning to bury him this weekend, they are still uncertain about the procedures involved in dealing with the badly decomposed body.

Elvis Mohammed hung himself at the Kimberley Railway Station last Friday. While he was taken to the state mortuary, it is believed that the fridge malfunctioned, resulting in the body decomposing.

When his family members went to identify the body two days later, they were advised against it because the body was so badly decomposed and instead they were shown photographs taken at the scene of the hanging.

Yesterday, a severely traumatised family member said that they were aware that people should not come into contact with the body because of the bad state that it is in.

“We are still waiting for instructions from the funeral parlour on how we should bury him. We don’t even know if we can take the body to the house for the service.”

While the Northern Cape Department of Health, according to the family, did not interact with them about what had happened at the mortuary, the department’s spokerspon, Lulu Mxekezo, admitted in a media response that the body had been placed in a malfunctioning fridge, resulting in it decomposing.

The family said that they were shattered that they had to learn through the media why the body had decomposed.

Visiting the DFA offices yesterday, Mohammed’s sister, Catherine van Wyk, was overcome with sobs and begged for answers from the department.

The family indicated that while they had made the necessary funeral arrangements, their hearts were heavy knowing that they would be burying an unidentified body and possibly without the usual customary traditions.

“We were told that there was not even a face to see, and that the state of the body presents a danger to us,” said Van Wyk.

“We are still struggling to come to terms with the pain of his suicide, then we were hit with this. The sad part is that no one considered our feelings and just said that the body had started decomposing.

“If they had explained to us in a decent manner exactly what had happened, maybe we would have understood or been sympathetic to the situation. Instead we had to read about it in the newspaper,” she sobbed.

The deceased’s brother, Emmanuel Mohammed, said the family were not even certain whether the body was that of his brother.

“They didn’t even offer us counselling,” he added. “We were still reeling from shock of the suicide, and then we had to be treated in this inhuman manner.

“We were handed the Notice of Death forms but there were no fingerprints. Instead the word ‘decomposed’ had been written in that field.”

The family has also questioned the post-mortem results.