Body-snatch bid blocked

By Lynley Bilby

Accused's family tried to take victim.

Jimmy Akuhata. Photo / APN
Jimmy Akuhata. Photo / APN

The family of a man accused of murder tried to snatch the body of his alleged victim from the funeral home where it lay.

A source close to the family of murdered mother of two Ashlee Edwards confirmed moves were made to take her body from a Kerikeri funeral parlour without the permission of her family.

The attempted body-snatching comes as a five-year legal battle drags on over Christchurch man James Takamore, whose family took his body and buried it against his partner's wishes. The Supreme Court is still to release its reserved decision in that case.

In the latest case, whanau of murder accused Jimmy Akuhata told an undertaker they intended taking his slain partner's body to a marae in the Bay of Islands where she would be laid to rest.

The source said the action was stopped by the intervention of a Kerikeri funeral director and she was buried in an Okaihau cemetery according to her family's wishes.

Angus Scott of Scott Funeral Services confirmed he called police and the dead woman's mother, Karen Edwards, a day before her funeral, after a dispute arose involving the victim's body.

Edwards' body had been in an open casket at the funeral home following her autopsy.

"Karen got a ring from the funeral directors and she rushed over there but by the time she got there the police were there and they had resolved it," the source said.

Edwards' body was discovered in a central Whangarei stream beneath a bridge early on July 29.

The young mum's partner and father of her two girls, 29-year-old Jimmy Akuhata, was charged with her murder. He has yet to plead and is scheduled to reappear in the Whangarei District Court on October 5.

Edwards was buried at the picturesque St Catherine's Anglican Church cemetery in a funeral attended by hundreds of family and friends from the close-knit rural Northland settlement of Okaihau.

Members of the murder-accused's family attended the funeral, said the source.

However, the funeral and subsequent burial, which was held in the wintry cold and rain, proceeded without incident.

Karen Edwards declined to comment.

New Zealand Funeral Director Association president Eion McKinnon said aggrieved parties were encouraged to talk through their differences.

"But sometimes never the twain will meet and, at worst, people will take things into their own hands."

Funeral directors were advised to follow the instructions of the people who had signed the contract and engaged their services. But there was also a need to respect cultural differences.

McKinnon hoped a review of the outdated Health, Burial and Cremation Act would go some way to resolving these type of disputed ownership issues.

There have been several incidents of body-snatching from funeral parlours in recent years.

In 2008, the body of Ivy May Ngahooro was taken from a Hamilton funeral home to a marae outside Taumarunui and returned two days later.

The previous year, 25-year-old mother-of-two Tina Marshall-McMenamin's body was taken by her father from a Lower Hutt funeral home and buried on the East Coast.

- Herald on Sunday

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