Jamaica: Body exhumed because burial site was not approved by officials

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Jamaica: Body exhumed because burial site was not approved by officials
The family of Ester Edwards was upset after her body was dug up from this grave in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, last Friday.
The family of Ester Edwards was upset after her body was dug up from this grave in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, last Friday.

(JAMAICA STAR) — Following the exhumation of Ester Edwards’ body last Friday and the outcry from her family members, town clerk Robert Hill has said that all the necessary protocols were followed by his team before they did anything.

He said that the family did pay for the inspection of their property before their family member was buried at a plot at their home in Mavis Bank, St Andrew, but, after inspection, the site was not approved.

“The superintendent of cemeteries did conduct the inspection, but they were told that the site was not approved because it was too close to the watershed. From my understanding, he recommended another area, which they did not comply with, and so, they went ahead and buried unauthorised,” he said.

Hill said that the National Water Commission (NWC) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) also advised the family to conduct the burial at another site.

VERBAL APPROVAL

However, in an interview withTHE STAR last Friday, the family claimed that they were given verbal approval by a staff member at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSMC) to bury their mother at the location they had chosen.

Edwards was buried on December 19, and men turned up at the plot last Friday to exhume the body.

However, Hill said that after the burial in December, his office received several letters of concern from the public health department, the NWC and NEPA. He said that after consideration, the NWC turned off water supply in the Westphalia community because of fear of contamination.

“We had a inter-agency meeting between us, NWC, NEPA, and the public health department, and it was agreed that the exhumation must take place and the body be re-entered in a public cemetery if the family members did not come up with an alternative site,” he said.

He added that before the exhumation, the family was asked where they wanted their mother to be reburied, but they did not reply.

Arlene Reid, daughter of Ester Edwards, insists that the only letter she received from anyone in authority was dated February 5. That letter stated that an exhumation would be done.

Hill said that Edwards is buried in the May Pen Cemetery and that her burial spot is tagged with a grave number. He said the family was invited to come along for the reburial, but they refused to do so. He said that the family can contact the superintendent of cemeteries to find the exact location of the body.

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