Civil claim looms after dead woman's jewellery disappears from morgue

Jewellery worth R100 000 belonging to the late Barbara Carolus was stolen from the Salt River Mortuary. (Photo: Facebook)
Jewellery worth R100 000 belonging to the late Barbara Carolus was stolen from the Salt River Mortuary. (Photo: Facebook)

Cape Town – A Cape Town woman is planning to institute a civil claim against the Western Cape Department of Health after her dead mother's jewellery worth R100 000 went missing from the Salt River mortuary.

Shavonne Miller is preparing for a legal battle with the provincial department following the disappearance of 64-year-old Barbara Carolus' personal effects following her death on her way to hospital on August 19.

She had suffered a heart attack.

Miller said removing the valuables from her mother's body was the last thing on her mind when she was loaded into the ambulance that day.

"Among the jewellery she was wearing were a diamond ring, antique pearl earrings and gold bangles which she in her will left for her grandchildren," Miller said.

Carolus' body was taken to the state mortuary and Miller was told by officials that her mother's clothes and valuables had been booked and tagged.

Internal investigation

Miller's father and brother identified Carolus' body but were not handed the jewellery.

"I contacted the mortuary [on the day of her death] and asked about it. They told me to come and collect it the [coming] Monday," she said.

"When my brother arrived on Monday August 22 they said it was missing."

Miller said she was referred to the head of the facility who apologised for the incident and told her that an internal investigation would be launched.

"I was promised updates but have received none. Camera footage was available at the time of the incident and viewed by [the facility head] but has since been conveniently recorded over. We want answers."

The trauma of losing her mother has been intensified by the disappearance of her much-loved jewellery, Miller said.

'It meant a lot to her'

"They offered a verbal apology. I was told I was the first person this has happened to, but other people have since contacted me to say they have gone through the same thing.

"I will fight this – it's not something I can just let go. My mother loved her jewellery. It was beautiful and meant a lot to her."

She said her father, who is in his 70s, has appealed to her to at least find his late wife's wedding ring.

Western Cape Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said an investigation had been initiated by the department, which has also requested a probe by provincial forensic services.

"Security measures and standard operating procedures are in place at facilities to record items of a deceased. Once the investigation is concluded, the next of kin will be informed of the outcome."

Miller said she has also opened a case of theft with the Woodstock police.

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