Seven years after the body of James Takamore was snatched from a funeral parlour, it finally looks set to return home.
Takamore, a father of two, died of an aneurism in 2007 and was about to be buried in Christchurch, where he had lived with partner Denise Clarke and their two children for nearly 20 years.
His Tuhoe relatives had other plans, however, and spirited his body away to his birthplace in Bay of Plenty, where they buried him next to his father at Kutarere Marae, near Opotiki.
Clarke, who is the executor of Takamore’s estate, obtained a High Court judgment confirming her right to decide his burial place and ordering an exhumation.
The decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal, but Takamore’s sister, Josephine Takamore, lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court on the grounds that Tuhoe tikanga, or customary protocol, should decide the location of burial.
After years of legal wrangling, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in December 2012, and upheld the exhumation order. Despite this, Takamore’s body remains at the marae after 18 months of negotiation. But a breakthrough agreement was reached this week after the family agreed to allow the marae committee to carry out the disinterment, with a final hui scheduled for July 1 to discuss the process.
It’s insane it has taken so long. I’d change the law in two ways:
- Make the wishes of the deceased binding on the executor (so long as legal) in terms of burial
- Make it a criminal offence to steal a body