Local funeral parlour holds body to ransom

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Warren Ferreira has been through hell since his brother died a few weeks ago, because the funeral services they were using refused to release his body to the family.

His brother, Nick, died in his sleep in Krugersdorp on Thursday, 29 June. His body was transported by a private local funeral parlour and kept in its facility.

The family of the deceased thought the body would be taken to a state morgue, and were surprised to discover the private parlour had custody of his body.

“We went to the parlour, which looked very dodgy, and asked to move his body to another morgue,” said Warren. “The people at the parlour threatened us and said if we didn’t pay them R13 000, they would keep the body.”

Frustrated and baffled by the high price, Warren asked the parlour manager why the bill was so high.

“The owner said that R1 500 was for transporting the body, which was weird because the forensic department would not have charged us anything for the first 25km.”

Then they allegedly quoted R5 000 for a cancellation fee and R5 000 for loss of profit.

According to Johan Rousseau, chairperson of the Funeral Industry Reformed Association, the service should have been free, except if a private funeral parlour was used, in which case the cost should not have exceeded R1 000.

“The methods used by their associations and its membership are surely not in the public’s or in the industry’s best interest. It seems to be some sort of collusion to attract membership at the expense of the public and parlours that don’t belong to their alliance. The family is going through emotional turmoil, and the funeral parlour is tormenting the family,” said Johan. “It is not about the family’s interests any more, it’s about money.”

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The family and an employee of the parlour almost came to blows, and the parlour owner also threatened the family.

The family went as far as opening a case at the Tarlton Police Station to investigate the parlour’s legitimacy. They also opened a case of inquest at the Krugersdorp Police Station.

The family does not even know how their beloved brother died. “He died in his sleep, but there was no autopsy because the funeral parlour hijacked his body,” said Warren.

According to Johan, this is not the first time local funeral parlours have taken advantage of an emotional family after their loved ones have passed. “There are more than five cases of exactly the same nature currently being investigated. These have only been reported over the last three months and only on the West Rand.”

Nick’s body was finally released on Thursday, 6 July. His funeral will take place on Wednesday, 12 July at the Bikers’ Church in Dan Pienaarville at 1pm.

Both case are still being investigated.

Johan and his team have created a website to help community members with issues with funeral parlours. To find out more about rates, regulations and complaints, visit www.fira.org.za.

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Bianca Pindral

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