Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Digging up Christchurch father Jamie Pooley would breach Maori custom, iwi elder says

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.

Digging up the body of a young Christchurch father five years after his death would be a "significant breach" of Maori custom, a court was told today.

Cheyenne Rana Biddle wants to exhume the body of her long-term partner, Jamie Robert Pooley, who died on May 14, 2011, so that he can be cremated and his ashes returned to his ancestral homeland.

Biddle claims the 27-year-old father-of-three, who was buried in a family plot at Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, always wanted to be cremated.

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

Biddle took legal action to pursue the move, which has parallels with the James Takamore case.

On the second day of a High Court hearing in Christchurch, Reverend Wharekawa Kaa, leader of the Ngati Porou iwi in Christchurch and close relative of Pooley's mother Charlotte, gave evidence.

He told how he gave advice to the Pooley family during the tangi and funeral arrangements process.

Kaa believed that tikanga protocol, or Maori custom, was followed throughout.

He claimed that nobody raised concerns about Pooley being buried or how the arrangements were made.

And he agreed with the Pooley family that he should be left to rest in peace.

"In my experience as an elder, and understanding of tikanga protocol, it would be a significant breach of that protocol to exhume Jamie," he told the court.

"He had been laid to rest. Prayers have been said over him. His spirit has returned to Papatuanuku."

Earlier today, Pooley's eldest son Tuhaka Pooley, 14, made an emotional plea in court to say, "Please leave my Dad in the ground".

He wants his father to be left alone to "rest in peace" in a place where he can visit.

"If my Dad gets dug up, what good would that do?" Tuhaka asked.

"It wouldn't be good for me if a judge says he has to be dug up and cremated. Please leave my dad in the ground."

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 says.

Biddle, who was in a de facto relationship with Pooley for nearly six years and had two children with him, yesterday said she was "sidelined" by the Pooley family after his death as they "took full control" of the funeral arrangements.

Pooley's mother Charlotte Pooley today told the court that Biddle had stayed silent throughout and raised no objections.

She believed it would be tapu for her son to now be exhumed.

"It's a big no-no in Maori culture," she said.

When Allan suggested Charlotte Pooley had left Biddle out of many key decisions after her son's death, she twice replied: "I am his mother."

Cheyenne Biddle's mother Gillian Frances Biddle this morning spoke of her "surprise" that her daughter was allegedly not involved in the decision-making of the funeral arrangements.

Pooley loved Biddle and his children "intensely", she said.

After his sudden death, the tangi was "very emotional, full of tension".

She was "surprised that Chey and our family were not involved at all" in the decision-making, as she felt it was a time to join together as a larger family.

"[The Pooleys] were not the only ones grieving," Gillian Biddle said.

The hearing, before Justice Gerald Nation, continues tomorrow.

- NZ Herald

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