Mexico hunts crematorium owner after 60 bodies found

2015-02-07 16:06
Mexico police (AP)

Mexico police (AP)

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Acapulco - Mexican police launched a manhunt on Friday for the owner of an abandoned crematorium after 60 bodies, including children, were found rotting in the Acapulco facility that closed a year ago.

Authorities made the grim discovery of bodies covered in white sheets, some piled on top of each other, late on Thursday after neighbours called police to complain about the stench coming from the "Cremations of the Pacific" building.

The fading resort of Acapulco has been plagued by drug gang violence whose victims are regularly found around the city, but this time, authorities indicated that they were investigating a macabre case of funerary fraud.

The bodies of men, women and children were found "perfectly embalmed" in the crematorium, officials said.

Guerrero state chief prosecutor Miguel Angel Godinez said authorities had requested assistance from federal agencies and Interpol to find the owner, Guillermo Estua Zadai.

Nauseating smell

"It could be a possible fraud by the owner of the building against the people who thought the remains of their relatives would be cremated," he later told Radio Formula, adding that officials are investigating whether people were given the wrong ashes.

The bodies were covered in white sheets that were brown from what appeared to be fluid from the decomposing corpses.

Lime was scattered on the bodies and around the crematorium in an apparent bid to mask the stench, but neighbours said they began to detect a nauseating smell two days ago.

Authorities said the crematorium stopped paying taxes three years ago and closed last year after either going bankrupt or failing to pay back loans.

Worried relatives who had used the crematorium's services went to Acapulco's morgue, asking authorities to check whether their loved ones were among the abandoned bodies.

David Jaimes, who had hired the crematorium nine months ago after his mother died, asked officials to analyse the ashes that were handed to him.

"I saw the furnace turned on and my mother lying there, but I never saw them put her inside," Jaimes said.

"The gentleman who was there told us 'get out if you want because this place is dangerous.' We left but we never saw the body go in, so we have this doubt today."

Forensic examination

Karina Garcia Jacinto, who paid around $400 - $470 in December 2013 to cremate her father's body, went to the morgue with his death certificate.

"It's a concern that we have, as family members, to see if our relatives are there," she said.

Prosecutors were investigating crimes, including the desecration of bodies and violations of burial and exhumation regulations.

Forensic experts are examining the bodies to determine the cause and date of death.

Investigators have asked directors of local funeral homes to indicate whether they sent any corpses to the crematorium since 2013 in order to identify the bodies.

Local residents said they never noticed any suspicious activity around the building.

"We called [the emergency number] 066 because the smell became unbearable," said one neighbour who requested anonymity. "Everything is calm here. I didn't know the crematorium was closed but we hadn't seen people go in and out."

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