Funeral services company Doves is set to be charged with two counts of fraud over a burial fiasco in which the company buried a coffin stuffed with blankets and body bags in place of the body of a man who drowned, it emerged on Friday.
Using the cover of Covid-19 regulations which prohibited body viewing, Doves told the grieving family of Maxwell Chimwamurombe that a coffin they were burying at Chitambara Village in Nyanga contained his remains.
Doves, according to available information, later discovered their “error”. Instead of informing the family, the company buried Chimwamurombe’s remains at Granville Cemetery inside a coffin containing the body of a pauper, whose burial was paid for by the City of Harare.
On Friday, detectives – accompanied by Chief Pathologist Dr Tsungai Victor Javangwe – exhumed a coffin in which Chimwamurombe was supposedly buried.
The coffin was taken to Avilla Mission Hospital. On examination, the police and pathologist found a blanket wrapped in a plastic bag, another plastic with two body bags, a pair of trousers, a shirt and a white cloth all wrapped in a blanket.
Investigators have now recommended that the company be charged with two counts of fraud.
“The first count is that of defrauding the policy holder who was paying her premiums but the company failed to offer her the expected services. The second count is that of defrauding the City of Harare by paying for one grave and then later burying two corpses in the same grave,” an internal police memo seen by ZimLive said.
Doves has cooperated with the investigation. When the scandal blew up in October last year, the company reported that a member of the family – a lawyer – had tried to extort it of a vehicle and a large sum of money.
Chimwamurombe drowned in the flooded Nyamombe River in March last year. His body was not found for days. When he was discovered, his body was in a bad state with parts scattered on a riverbank.
The remains were reportedly collected in a plastic bag and then sent to Harare for Doves to prepare for burial.
Inexplicably, the undertaker who was to take the body for burial left with a coffin only containing the items uncovered on Friday.
ZimLive has been told that the undertaker became aware of the “error” just before burial, but allowed the processes to continue. He returned to Harare and informed company chiefs who embarked on a cruel cover-up which would end with Chimwamurombe buried in the same coffin as a homeless man who died at an old people’s home in Harare.
The cover-up was blown when a company employee informed the family.
Doves, its reputation shredded, is expected to pay substantial damages to the family, on top of the criminal charges.