A 47-year-old former mortuary worker from Paarl is facing criminal charges for allegedly abusing the body of a seven-year-old girl almost four years ago.
The allegations came to light after a pathologist discovered that the girl’s corpse had been sexually desecrated.
The man, whose name is known to the Weekend Argus, was dismissed after a disciplinary hearing found him guilty.
A source close to the investigation said: “The girl died after a car reversed over her while she was playing outside with friends.”
The source said the man, a married father of two, had been taking the child’s body from the scene of the accident in Wellington to the Paarl mortuary.
Police spokesman, Warrant Officer November Filander, confirmed that the man was facing charges under two articles of the Criminal Procedure Act.
It is understood the child’s parents did not know of the desecration of their child’s body. Filander said the parents had moved to the Eastern Cape and their address was unknown.
According to police, the prosecutor of the Paarl Regional Court issued a J175 summons, which was served on the Paarl man in September.
“The accused was released on his own recognisances after his first court appearance.”
He is due to appear in court next month for plea and trial.
Provincial health spokeswoman Faiza Steyn confirmed that the man had been dismissed from the department for misconduct.
She declined to give any details, saying the matter was sub judice.
She added that all employees in the forensic pathology labs were thoroughly screened.
“Employees are also not permitted to work individually with a body. They work in teams.”
Dr Henry Lerm, a lawyer with the South Africa Legal Aid Board who did his Master’s degree on the nature of necrophilia in southern law, said it was encountered more often than people realised.
“Because of the bizarre nature of the crime, the general perception is that this is a rare occurrence. It is more common than we think. Because the cadavers cannot protest or complain afterwards… these types of cases often go through undetected, unless, of course, the perpetrator is so careless that he does not put the corpses back in the fridges.”
Lerm said necrophilia was not a new crime. He had represented a former police reservist on a similar charge about 15 years ago.
“Interestingly, Shakespeare dealt with the topic in Romeo and Juliet. He wrote: ‘Shall I believe that unsubstantial death is amorous?/ And that the lean abhorred monster keeps Thee here in the dark to be his paramour?’
“The ancient Egyptians took precautions against necrophilia by prohibiting the corpses of the wives of men of rank from being immediately embalmed, for fear that the embalmers would violate them.”
Lerm said a necrophiliac could not be charged with rape. “The charge is rather that of violating a corpse. What the state has to prove is that an accused unlawfully and intentionally violated a corpse by having sex with the corpse.”
He said there were no prescribed sentences for necrophilia, and that the magistrate could use his or her discretion.
A morgue worker is more likely to be given a more lenient sentence than perhaps a gravedigger, who opens a grave for the purpose of having sex. – Weekend Argus