Key Points:

A widow is taking legal action for the return of her partner's body removed from a Christchurch marae the day before his funeral.

The funeral of James Takamore, 55, who died of an aneurysm, was to be held at the Te Whare Roimata marae in central Christchurch yesterday.

But on Sunday his mother, brother and sister took his body in a rental van to be buried in the North Island.

Mr Takamore's partner Denise Clarke told The Press newspaper she was devastated.

"I just couldn't believe they could do that and get away with it," she said.

"He told me he wanted to be buried here. I definitely want him here with all his family. He has been here nearly 20 years. We are his family more than they are, I would say."

Some of his extended family had claimed he had wanted to be buried in his hometown, she said.

Ms Clarke said she had been told as executor of his will she had legal custody of his body.

Police stopped the relatives van after she called them, but they took no action because it was regarded as a civil issue.

Ms Clarke said she had been told Mr Takamore had already been buried, but would pursue a court order to have his body returned.

Mr Takamore's uncle John Manuel told the newspaper Maori protocol dictated that immediate family had the final say over where someone was buried.

That role fell to Mr Takamore's son Jamie, 21.

At a meeting on Saturday the two sides could not agree and out of frustration Jamie agreed to the body being taken to the North Island.