Fight over stolen body back in court

James Takamore. Photo / Supplied
James Takamore. Photo / Supplied

The Supreme Court will decide who has the final say on where the body of a man whose family stole his body and took it to his ancestral home should be buried.

James Takamore was 55 when he died suddenly of an aneurism in 2007.

He was originally from Taneatua, in Bay of Plenty, but moved to Christchurch with partner Denise Clarke 20 years before his death. The couple had two children.

Mr Takamore had specified in his will, of which Ms Clarke was executor, that he wanted to be buried but did not say where.

Despite him returning to the North Island only twice in 20 years, his family decided he should be buried on the family marae, in accordance with Tuhoe custom.

However, Miss Clarke had intended him to be buried in Christchurch.

In 2009 the High Court ruled that the Takamore family had taken the body unlawfully and that Miss Clarke was entitled to make the final decision on where he should be buried.

However, Mr Takamore's sister, Josephine Takamore, went to the Court of Appeal and argued that the burial of a Maori was governed by tikanga (customary practices), and that taking Mr Takamore's body was in accordance with Tuhoe burial custom.

After a four-year struggle, the Court of Appeal last November released its decision, siding with Miss Clarke and ordering the matter back to the high court "to deal with the question of remedy''.

Miss Clarke said at the time she was relieved it was "all over'' and she would pursue the matter through the high court to bring Mr Takamore's body back to Christchurch to be buried.

However, Josephine Takamore appealed the Appeal Court decision to the Supreme Court, which today granted her leave to hear it.

"The approved grounds are whether the Court of Appeal was correct to hold that New Zealand law entitled the executrix to determine disposal of the body of the deceased and whether it was correct to hold that the executrix is entitled to take possession of the body of the deceased not withstanding its burial.''

Ms Takamore told APNZ the family was very happy.

"We're pleased that we're going to get heard in the Supreme Court.''

She said she couldn't comment on how Ms Clarke would feel about today's decision but agreed that the Takamore family felt very strongly that the body of their whanau member should be at home with them.

Ms Clarke today told APNZ she did not want to comment on the latest decision.

No date has been set for a hearing.

- APNZ

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