Do You Know the Dead?

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Namibian Police are requesting the public to come forward and verify the remains of three male adults, found in the field. In an effort to trace the next of kin of the deceased, the police displayed the decomposed clothing of the three dead men yesterday. The pieces of clothing, which consisted of muddied trousers, caps, worn-out shoes, shirts, shorts and belts, were shown at the Windhoek Police Mortuary. Speaking to the press, Warrant-Officer Jooste Mbandeka said the skeletal remains of one of the three men were found at the dumping site in Mariental on the 18th of last month (January). The remains of one of the other two men were found at Farm Sonnelus near Gobabis on November 2005 and the other at Farm Gous in Kalkrand on the 28th of January this year. All three bodies have been classified as “uncertained autopsy” on the police records, since the law enforcement agents cannot determine the actual cause of death. The reason why the Mariental corpse was brought to the Windhoek Police Mortuary was because ” the region does not have doctors to do the post-mortem and there were none at the time the bodies were brought here,” said Mbandeka. He added that cases of unclaimed bodies were a common phenomenon for the police, and many of these cases end up as pauper burials, because the next of kin fail to come and claim their dead. For health reasons, a corpse cannot be kept for longer than two months in the mortuary, resulting in many of them being given a pauper’s burial instead by the State. The Windhoek Police Mortuary alone currently deals with an average of 20 corpses of this nature every year. Previous reports are that unclaimed bodies are a concern for the police as it hampers thorough investigations in finding the real causes of death. In a previous interview with New Era, Mbandeka said this is a serious setback for the police who want to ascertain the causes of death of these unclaimed bodies. The Windhoek Police Mortuary mainly deals with unnatural deaths like murder, suicide, motor vehicle accidents and others. With the escalation of violent crime in the country, such deaths mostly range from hangings to baby dumping and killings where bodies are found in the field. “It’s bad to have bodies unclaimed because we do not receive information from the public which can help us with the crime investigation in cases such as murder. This proves very difficult,” said Warrant-Officer Mbandeka. Sometimes the absence of an identification document or the fact that a deceased is only known by his or her nickname makes it difficult for police to investigate the murder. Although concrete reasons could not be given as to why these bodies could not be claimed, Warrant-Officer Mbandeka told New Era that sometimes it happens that the relationships between the deceased and families may have gone sour before the actual death, resulting in the families not wanting to come and claim their deceased relatives. “In some cases, people don’t have the money to bury their dead and expect the State to bury them instead,” added Mbandeka. He encouraged the public to claim their dead relatives. “It is for their benefit, as they will be playing a vital role in solving the crimes. People should still come even if the deceased is not his or her relative, but may have valuable information to help with the police investigation,” explained Mbandeka. Since 2000, Government has undertaken 85 pauper burials of unclaimed bodies. This is done through tenders procured to undertakers administered through the local authorities in the Windhoek area.