Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Battle to exhume young father Jamie Pooley reaches High Court in Christchurch

A battle over whether to exhume the body of young Christchurch father Jamie Pooley has reached the High Court. Photo: supplied.
A battle over whether to exhume the body of young Christchurch father Jamie Pooley has reached the High Court. Photo: supplied.

Two families fighting over whether a young father's body should be exhumed five years after his death so that he can be cremated have today rejected a judge's eleventh hour offer to settle their differences behind closed doors.

Cheyenne Rana Biddle last year started proceedings to exhume the body of her partner, Jamie Robert Pooley, who died on May 14, 2011 and was buried in a family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch.

Biddle claims the 27-year-old father-of-three always wanted to be cremated.

Pooley's whanau deny the claims and do not want him disturbed.

The battle has reached the High Court at Christchurch.

Justice Gerald Nation this morning welcomed both whanau to court and said it was important that both parties treat each other with respect.

After delivering a karakia, the judge said the best result, in terms of respecting Pooley, was to try and reach agreement without having to battle it out in court.

He gave both parties one final chance to talk in private, behind closed doors, to try and reach agreement this morning.

However, after a short adjournment, they declined the opportunity.

The three-day hearing has now started.

Biddle, as administrator of the estate of Pooley, who did not have a will, has the legal right to disinter his body, cremate him, and have his ashes returned to his Ngati Porou ancestral home in the North Island, her lawyer Phillip Allan said in his opening remarks.

Although the case has parallels with that of James Takamore, which finally resolved after eight years through behind-closed-doors mediation, Allan said the Pooley case is "slightly more complex".

After Takamore's death in 2007, his Tuhoe whanau allegedly snatched his body, claiming Maori custom.

But in this case, the body was not challenged for, or taken.

Instead, Biddle claims that after Pooley's sudden death, her input around funeral arrangements and his resting place were either "ignored or overruled rather than properly respected", Allan said.

"Everything happened too fast," Allan said.

Biddle will argue that although after Pooley's death she expressed to his whanau some preferences around his burial arrangements, she "didn't make any attempts to assert her position".

Allan says that under the law, her rights as administrator of his estate gives her the right to now disinter his body, as she says that was his wishes.

The parties are also battling over Maori weapons belonging to Pooley - two taiaha (closed-quarters staffs) and one tewhatewha (long-handled club) - taonga which Biddle wants made available "for his sons to earn".

The Pooley whanau's main argument against exhumation - which has legal precedent in New Zealand - is that Pooley's "very tapu" body has laid in rest for more than four years.

Pooley's eldest son Tuhaka Pooley, 14, wants his father - a former under-18 New Zealand rugby league player and Aranui High School student - left alone.

"I feel like Dad is in the right place because he is Maori and he is in a Maori cemetery and it is peaceful there. I can't imagine him being anywhere else," he previously told the Herald.

- NZ Herald

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