Mourning family find strange body in family burial site
The vexing discovery of a decomposing body in a shallow grave at Durban cemetery is being probed by the police
A grief-stricken Luke Naidu had watched as gravediggers at the Stellawood Cemetery in Durban shifted rich brown earth from his family burial site before his brother’s funeral.
The grave – which holds the remains of Naidu’s grandmother and parents – should have lain undisturbed since 1988.
But as the men hacked at the soil they exposed a rotting corpse clad only in socks – the shallow grave now the centre of a vexing mystery that has left police questioning whether they have been confronted with an administrative bungle, or something more nefarious with the brilliant disposal of a body in a cemetery.
“My brother was my rock; he was a pastor for many years and our family was in mourning when he died,” the 70-year-old Phoenix resident said.
“It is disgusting that this happened to us, and we don’t know who this person is or where they came from. We don’t know if this person was murdered and dumped there to hide the evidence,” he said.
Cemetery staff had been preparing for the internment of Mark Moonsamy and had removed the headstone and stone that covered the earth surface.
At a depth of 30cm they discovered a plastic sheet and when it was torn open the acrid stench of death rushed out, and the skeletal remains of someone buried in the shallow grave were exposed.
“All we could see were bones with maggots and the body had socks on,” Naidu told Times Select.
The find, on the eve of Moonsamy’s funeral, forced the family to depart from tradition and bury their loved one in another city cemetery.
Police sources with knowledge of the probe, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a pathologist’s examination of the remains would provide a crucial direction for their investigation.
“At this stage we don’t know what we have. It could be a case of a body dump or perhaps the cemetery staff allocated the gravesite to someone else in error,” one policeman said.
“It is beyond strange that the body was buried in the way it was, in a shallow grave and without a coffin or clothing. These are all things that we need to try and decode.”
Naidu said his family had not only dealt with the death of their cherished loved one, but were grappling with the traumatic find.
“We want to get to the bottom of this. My family is very shocked by this whole thing,” he said.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Mandla Nsele said the incident had brought the issue of security at the metro’s cemeteries into sharp focus. “The city is doing its absolute best to maintain and secure all cemeteries. That includes repairing fencing, adding security guards on site and exercising access control measures at the cemeteries.
“We have submitted a recommendation to add four security guards at Stellawood to try and resolve the security issues; we are still awaiting new financial year allocations,” he added.
On the grim find, Nsele acknowledged the “surprise” unearthed by staff.
“The family who leased the grave came to do reopening. The grave already had three people buried inside, with the last laid to rest in 1988.
“The family came in and it was explained to them that plastic with remains inside consisting of bones and socks [had been discovered]. The family said they do not know the plastic and who this person is, because the last person the family buried had no socks on, and the body still had a strong smell. All in all the grave was too shallow,” Nsele said.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele confirmed that officers were investigating a case of grave desecration.