Bones vanish somewhere between police and Eastern Cape funeral parlour

Heartbroken siblings were about to bury their sister's remains

18 November 2020 - 12:00 By Sikho Ntshobane
An Eastern Cape funeral parlour is at the centre of controversy.
An Eastern Cape funeral parlour is at the centre of controversy.
Image: File photo

A distraught Eastern Cape family who was told the skeletal remains of their dead sister had gone missing from a funeral parlour is threatening to take the police to court unless her bones are returned to them.

Zikhona Ncume's bones and clothes were found about an hour's walk from her home in Spezini village in Lusikisiki in May 2012.

She had gone missing in December 2011 and the family initially thought she had gone somewhere to enjoy the festive season. However, after months of searching, her bones and skull were found in a veld by a group of boys.

Ncume's older sister, Phumza Kaluvasi, told DispatchLIVE this week her body was taken to Sicelithemba Funeral Services in Lusikisiki by police and state forensic pathology services officials.

A month later, they learnt her body had vanished from the funeral parlour.

“What is worse is that we were preparing to bury her remains, but two days before the funeral, they [police] came to tell us to stop everything,” she said.

“They said two family members would have to provide blood samples that would be matched to her bones to see if it was her who had been found. After that we heard nothing so we decided to go there ourselves to check. Then we were told the bones had disappeared and no one knew what had happened to them.”

She said though only her sister's bones were found, they had positively identified them through the clothes found on the skeleton. These were the same items she had been wearing when she disappeared.

How do you lose them? We will sue them if they don't give them back to us.
Xolisile Wela, Nkume's brother

“We are hurt that our own government can do this to us. We want her bones to be returned to us.”

Kaluvasi said had her bones been recovered, they possibly would have been able to make peace with losing their loved one.

She said an officer at Lusikisiki police station had told her earlier this month to “give up on the matter and just have a prayer to close the chapter”.  The police did not have the case on their files, she said.

She said when she visited Sicelithemba Funeral Services this year, she was told their computer systems "died a long time ago".

Sicelithemba manager Goodman Mthotywa reacted with shock on Monday, saying no one had approached them about missing bones or a missing body. He said they did not have records dating back to 2012 as they did not keep them for that long.

“What I can tell you is that no bone or body has ever gone missing from us. Where is the proof that Sicelithemba was given any bones? We would never lose a body or bones because our reputation as a business is built on us being able not to lose any remains given to us. They should produce something that clearly shows we got that body.”

Provincial police spokesperson Col Sibongile Soci said efforts by the investigating officer who had taken over the case had not yet yielded results.

According to the officer, police records indicated the remains had been taken by the parlour and were never returned.

Contrary to Kaluvasi's version that the police had not bothered to tell them anything without being asked, Soci said the family had always been kept abreast of developments to finalise the investigation.

“It is imperative to note that this is a 2012 matter and therefore there will be no quick solution to solve it. Unrealistic deadlines will not assist the investigation in any way,” she said.

Nkume's brother, Xolisile Wela, said they were prepared to take the police to court if it would help to get the “missing bones found”.

“Instead of giving us answers, they told us in no uncertain terms that we would never find the bones. How do you lose them? We will sue them if they don't give them back to us.”

He said the family was heartbroken.

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