Almost 500 unclaimed bodies at Western Cape pathology services - report

2019-11-02 20:33


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A body that has not been claimed for 13 years is among the 495 unidentified corpses lying in freezers in the Western Cape, the Weekend Argus reported on Saturday. 

The oldest at Salt River Forensic Pathology Service (FPS) arrived in 2006 and is now just desiccated remains of skin and bone. 

It is in a temperature-controlled shipping container outside the building, along with 229 others there. 

Forensic officer Calvin Mesane said regulations state that 30 days is the longest bodies can be kept, but it often takes the swamped investigating officers a long time to track down the identity and family of the deceased. They can request an extension in writing.

The body can also be processed as a pauper, with the municipality bearing the funeral costs, but the PFS tries to keep remains for as long as possible for people who do not believe in cremation. 

Cremated remains are kept in ash boxes with a death certificate, but this is also piling up with 602 unclaimed boxes presently being stored. 

Next year the Salt River FPS will be moving to a new facility currently under construction next to Groote Schuur Hospital, with space for obese bodies. However, there are already concerns that it might already be too small. 

In July, Groote Schuur Hospital said it was treating up to 90 gunshot victims a month, at an average of about three a day due to gang violence, News24 reported earlier. 

At the overburdened Salt River mortuary, some bodies were being stored in refrigerator shipping containers as an increase in violent crime and population growth have reportedly seen the morgue becoming excessively overcrowded.

GroundUp reported that the mortuary can handle a maximum of 18 cases a day.

The Salt River FPS's new facility in Observatory is expected to cost R281m and is scheduled to open by May 2020.

(Compiled by Jenni Evans)

Read more on:    cape town  |  gangsterism

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