Grave robbers forget false teeth

2013-01-05 00:00

WELKOM — Family and friends of a well-known pre-primary school teacher in the Free State Goldfields had to stand at her open grave for a second time this week.

This time it was to make sure that her body was still in her casket after a bizarre case of a grave robbery.

And if the unknown perpetrators had not dropped the false teeth of the late Jeanette Petersen next to her fresh grave with the key to her expensive coffin, chances are that nobody would have been any the wiser.

The set of false teeth and the key to the ornate coffin — which was bought for R16 000 — as well as a long knife and plastic gloves found near the grave gave police the evidence to open a docket on a possible grave robbery.

Ma Jeana, as she was known in Bronville, died at home on November 4 last year in the arms of her husband, Freddie. She was buried on November 10.

On December 24, the day that she would have turned 75, her entire family went to the grave to remember Ma Jeana.

The children, who ran ahead to the grave, stumbled upon the set of false teeth.

The family was initially nonplussed, but did not suspect that the grave had been opened.

The teeth had been placed on top of the coffin with the flowers during the funeral because they had not reached the undertaker in time to be placed in the coffin.

Only when they found the key to the coffin, which they had buried 1,8 metres down a few weeks earlier, did they realise the grave had been opened and closed again.

After they raised the alarm, municipal workers used a steel rod to establish whether the coffin was still in the grave, but their probe kept missing the coffin.

It was decided to open the grave on Thursday.

“For us it was so much worse than the funeral. It is sad, traumatic and shocking,” said Sylvia Rakei, Petersen’s daughter.

When the grave was opened on Thursday, the diggers found that the coffin’s lid had been shattered by the grave robbers.

The lid had been unceremoniously dumped upside down on the coffin before the grave was covered again.

The coffin had only been placed back only 1,2 metres deep.

Rakei said it seemed the grave robbers had not done anything to her mother’s body.

But, she added, the family did not know what had happened under the shroud.

“I believe God will hear our prayers for the guilty parties to come out,” she said.

“My dad closed my mother’s eyes himself when she died.”

She said her father had dressed her late mother for the funeral.

“I cannot describe how it feels to see her like this in her grave.”

Freddie Petersen said the circumstances surrounding the robbery of his wife’s grave were difficult to accept.

He suspected that muthi dealers or sangomas were involved.

He has three other daughters, Unice, Leah and Emelda.

Warrant Officer Malebo Khosana said police were investigating and asked anyone with information about the incident to contact the investigators.

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