Seven years to get the stolen body back

June 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

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
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36 Responses to “Seven years to get the stolen body back”

  1. WineOh (599 comments) says:

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like for that poor lady. Firstly to lose your life partner, and father of your children. Then to have his body stolen. 7 f*cking years to get him back… and I imagine the family are still adamant they did nothing wrong. And we pussy-foot around the issue by not addressing the chasm in cultural differences.

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  2. Judith (8,389 comments) says:

    It is a timely reminder for all of us to make sure we have our wishes recorded and witnessed, so that should anything like this occur, the Courts have a record from the deceased themselves, as to what they want.

    I know of cases where the executor of the will has decided to change what the deceased has stated, because it was more convenient, or more in line with their own wishes/beliefs. That should not be allowed to happen. If a person has made it clear what they expect in death, and has made provision for that to happen (no other person should have to take on debt just to fulfill those wishes) then that should be adhered to, it is after all the last thing you can decide for yourself.

    Given that society has become secular, and we are no longer guided by religious protocol in death and burial, it is time that we did have a good look at all the laws surrounding the topic. Especially with an aging generation that is going to see the death rate increase rapidly over the next 30 years.

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  3. Other_Andy (2,505 comments) says:

    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

    Sometimes I wonder.
    Is our host this gullible or is this written with tongue in cheek?

    If the body had been snatched from the Kutarere Marae by Denise Clarke, this case would have been ‘solved’ within 24 hours.

    The problem isn’t with the law.
    The problem is that one group in New Zealand is above the law.

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  4. jp_1983 (200 comments) says:

    But they are maaris
    And their culture reigns supreme over silly whitey common law

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  5. jackinabox (759 comments) says:

    If you think that that is the end of the matter then you don’t know Maori very well.

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  6. dirty harry (444 comments) says:

    what body..there be next to nothing left. Just leave the poor guy where he is FFS.

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  7. Unity (396 comments) says:

    I totally agree with David about the two legal points which we must have. Andy also made a good point and we should stop this different set of rules for one racial group. We are all New Zealanders and, in this case, the wife should have sole say in where her husband was buried. Goodness knows what she has gone through but I’m glad she pursued it relentlessly and got her way in the end. It’s unbelievable that it took 7 long years though. A sad indictment on our legal system – again.

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  8. rouppe (940 comments) says:

    The executor(his wife) was following his wishes.
    Define ‘steal’. As far as the whanau was concerned they were ‘claiming’ the body as they were next of kin.

    What needs to happen is define a clear succession of responsibility for someone who dies with a will in place and someone who dies intestate. Make it clear that others do not have any right to determine what happens and include an offence for interfering in that process.

    Be aware though, that this can still have undesirable consequences when the identified person (probably the surviving spouse) doesn’t get on with the deceased family.

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  9. peterwn (3,209 comments) says:

    “It’s insane it has taken so long. I’d change the law in two ways: ….”
    Parliament is too chicken to change the law.
    Similarly the police were too chicken to charge them with theft of a coffin. Another job for Graham McCready perhaps.

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  10. nasska (10,878 comments) says:

    A Christchurch barrister has written an interesting article suggesting that new legislation may not be the complete answer.

    Ref: http://marcuselliott.com/opinion/rights-for-the-dead/

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  11. projectman (206 comments) says:

    Re rouppe says:
    June 21st, 2014 at 10:56 am

    “As far as the whanau was concerned they were ‘claiming’ the body as they were next of kin.”

    Wrong. His wife is his next of kin (irrespective of who is the executor).

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  12. jackinabox (759 comments) says:

    “Similarly the police were too chicken to charge them with theft of a coffin. Another job for Graham McCready perhaps.”

    He’s got far bigger fish to fry.

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  13. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    Ah, the enlightened Stone Agers!

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  14. edhunter (514 comments) says:

    I’m finding it hard to believe that stealing a body isn’t illegal already.
    The other crime here is obviously the 7yrs it’s taken to resolve this, by all accounts this case was black & white (no pun intended).
    While after 7yrs I can agree in principal with Dirty Harry about leaving the body where it is, the president it would set is unacceptable. After all if one of James Takamore’s children were to die wouldn’t that give the whanau the right to snatch another body so it could lie with it’s father & grandfather etc.

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  15. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    Police and parliament are not too chicken to change the law.

    It just suits them to have a good cause for division in the community.

    Research the people’s riots of the1300′s under Wat Tyler and you’ll see what I mean.

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  16. kowtow (7,922 comments) says:

    What jp 1983 said.

    I blame the institutionalisation of tribalism through the implementation of treatyism.

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  17. Duxton (589 comments) says:

    I can’t believe it: I just gave Judith a thumbs up……

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  18. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Edhunter: I am not an expert in criminal law, but I am pretty damn sure stealing a body is already a crime..”interfering with a corpse” certainly is…

    I join everyone else here…the anonymous ones who say this is a absolute fucking disgrace, and that if it had been Ms Clarke doing the stealing she would have been before the Court in a jiffy..Other that the dedicated Ms Clarke, NOONE comes out of this smelling good (unfortunate choice of words perhaps) not the Police, not the Courts, and certainly not the stone agers who thought their primitive customs should override the wishes of a man who had chosen to live his life the pakeha way, with a pakeha wife, 800 miles or more from “his” rohe…and in a different Island. The Police had the chance to stop this in its tracks when they arrived as Takamore was being buried…and they chose to hang back and wring their collective hands…

    I also have little option but to support Judith on this one…

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  19. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Update: Section 150 of the Crimes Act governms intereference with a body…. (sorry, cant seem to do the link thingie)…While I believe it covers the Takamore situation, It does need to be made clearer so that taking a body from the possession and control of the executor (who lawfully owns it) is a criminal offence… But even that wont make any difference if the Police are too gutless to prosecute cases such as this one…as they were in this case…remember Ms Clarke got an exhumation order from the High Court, and the cops refused to supervise it being carried out…

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  20. Harriet (4,614 comments) says:

    ……..remember Ms Clarke got an exhumation order from the High Court, and the cops refused to supervise it being carried out…

    Seriously David? I thought judges would explode over that sort of snob to the courts. It doesn’t look to good with the police doing that – more so to the High Court. Wouldn’t a decision like that have to come from the very top?

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  21. jackinabox (759 comments) says:

    “The Police had the chance to stop this in its tracks when they arrived as Takamore was being buried…and they chose to hang back and wring their collective hands…”

    Useless f******g cops again!

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  22. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Harriet: yes, that is indeed what happened…Ms Clarke obtained an urgent injunction from the High Court which prevented the burial, and required it’s exhumation if it had already been buried…the cops turned up at the marae near Whakatane (I think) when the burial had not yet happened…the bros made it clear there would be violence if they tried to stop the burial, so the cops just watched while they flouted an order of the High One…

    And yes, I suspect the cops on hand sought instructions from their superiors who in turn would have kicked it up all the way to the Commissioners Office…Broad Howard at the time I think…(not sure on either point)

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  23. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    wikiwhatever: Stupid statement…No political party would initiate such legislation because of the inevitable cries of “racism” if they did…they would – correctly – see it as a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” cause..

    the only way it would happen is as a private members bill…introduced by someone like me…rather like the Bradford smacking bill – once it’s on the table it may be possible to get support for such a Bill…but given the pack of craven camp followers we have in the House now I cant see it happening…

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  24. Harriet (4,614 comments) says:

    Thanks David.

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  25. gravedodger (1,528 comments) says:

    @ David Garrett various, I understand Plod shadowed the station wagon throughout its journey to TuHoe.
    If snatching, threatening , transporting in defiance of expressed wishes of grieving wife and children does not provide at least a prima facie case of interfering with remains……..

    There would have been quite a wait at Picton allowing for a police response to at least put things on hold, it is very rare to go aboard without any delay.

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  26. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    gravedodger: (Appropriate pseud!) Yes, I recall that now…you are quite right, they followed them all the way….absolutely bloody disgraceful…

    And it didn’t matter about a prima facie case under s.150…the widow had an order from the High Court…

    I indirectly have some skin in this game…my estranged wife is Tongan…she has made a will which makes it very clear that she does NOT wish to be returned to Tonga for burial, and she does not want a huge Tongan tangi here…woe betide any Tongan from South Aucks who tries to flout those wishes…not while I draw breath…

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  27. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Nasska: that’s a very informative article…I did note that it not appear that a body is capable of being stolen (and therefore to found a charge of theft)..Major gap in the law…Mr Eliott listed a number of points that any new law ought to address…my position? Your will should absolutely prevail over any other consideration….(so long as it is lawful…one of my nutty sisters wanted me to draft a will providing for her body to be “flensed” after her death, and the skeleton given to her son…I declined)

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  28. Northland Wahine (655 comments) says:

    What Judith said about putting something in writing regarding your burial wishes are true, however, with done are concerned, that would make little difference. If the deceased ranking in the whanau is considerate, chances are the elders will claim the deceased on behalf of the whole whanau and not just the immediate family. I’ve never understood it and probably never will.

    And people, this does not happen in Maoridom. My young god daughter recently returned to Australia to spend time with her dying dad. For a whole week she sat with him, prepared his things to be given away, during the time he was awake and coherent. When he passed, sadly the day before his final will was to be witnessed, his younger brother stepped in and had the body transferred to a funeral director and only after the cremation, did he tell his niece where she collect half the ashes

    This had nothing to do with being culturally indifferent. Had everything to do with being vindictive.

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  29. Johnboy (15,537 comments) says:

    I always thought that “vindictive” seemed to be the word in the Takamore case NW.

    It’s just that our dreadful justice system seems to take excessive note of murri shite. I wonder why?

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  30. Johnboy (15,537 comments) says:

    I’m getting awfully worried that it will start taking excessive note of Islamic stuff next! :)

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  31. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    If it were made a criminal offence to ‘steal’ a body, would not the law also have to clarify who ‘owns’ a body?

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  32. Northland Wahine (655 comments) says:

    JB, we are surrounded by apologists. Seriously, I don’t think people of Maori descent are seen as individuals. They are seen as entire race. It’s the race that these apologists want to appease. Not the individual. In my experience, Most apologists have fuck all to do with many Maori one on one. And if any one of Maori descent disagrees with them?
    They’re labelled an Uncle Tom.

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  33. Johnboy (15,537 comments) says:

    All the murri I ever met (including my own son-in-law who taught me the word “murri”) would have no time for this cringing shite that chaps like Doug Graham and Chris Finlayson seem bent on fostering on us NW. I think they are running scared! :)

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  34. Lucia Maria (2,239 comments) says:

    I’d just like to point out that there is no secular reason why a wife is considered “next of kin” – it’s entirely Christian.

    Genesis 2: 23 Adam said, Here, at last, is bone that comes from mine, flesh that comes from mine; it shall be called Woman, this thing that was taken out of Man. 24 That is why a man is destined to leave father and mother, and cling to his wife instead, so that the two become one flesh.

    The one-flesh union through marriage (which cannot be reversed) is why a husband and wife are considered more closely related than they are to their families that they originally came from.

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  35. Johnboy (15,537 comments) says:

    I love it when you mention “flesh” Lucia! :)

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  36. David Garrett (6,723 comments) says:

    Lucia…bugger off and burn some incense

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