An elderly couple has had to return the ashes they thought belonged to their deceased son after a mortuary in Salt River, Cape Town had a mix up. Their son’s ashes was switched out with the ashes of a man who had died when he fell off Table Mountain.
Their son was named Morné Coetze (27), and he was murdered in July. His foster sister Leandria De Freitas tried for nearly a month to identify his body, and was informed that he had already been cremated and signed out by a person whose last name was Coetzee.
Speaking to HeraldLIVE, De Freitas said she had been postponing telling her mother about her brother’s death, as she is ill in hospital.
“We’ve spoken with her doctors, who told us to only tell her once we’ve gotten this whole situation sorted out. But I told them we don’t have his ashes back, we don’t have the death certificate – so if we tell her this over and above the fact that he’s been murdered, it could affect her mentally,” she said. “I at least want to have all of this sorted out to be able to tell her we’ve got his ashes back, we’ve got his death certificate and we know it’s him… or we’re hoping we get the right ashes back now.”
Her brother was stabbed to death and died in Wetton on July 28. When she met with police and mortuary staff on August 24, she was told that they had accidentally swopped Coetzer with the ashes of a man who had fallen off Table Mountain.
“The families were promptly informed about the mix-up. Forensic pathology services (FPS) officials personally met with both families to explain the detail and were truthful throughout the process,” Western Cape forensic pathology department spokesperson Deanna Bessick said. “We do not want to jeopardise the outcome of our internal investigation, but as indicated we informed the families of the detail. We also do not have the consent of the families to report on the detail. The forensic pathology services have put strict measures in place to prevent it from occurring as this doesn’t only impact the family but the integrity and reliability of [the service] as well.”