Family told of death 6 months after burial

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2006, 12:00am

Now wife must pay $2,000 if she wants to give her husband a proper funeral

Police have come under fire for not notifying a woman of the death of her ex-husband until six months after he had died and been buried.

The man was found dead in his flat in Tsuen Wan in June and police had him buried in Sandy Ridge cemetery when they could not contact the family.

His wife and daughter were not informed until December, legislator Albert Chan Wai-yip said yesterday.

Now they face a $2,000 bill for removal of the body if they want to give him a proper funeral.

Mr Chan demanded that the government explain the time lag between the death and the notification of family members.

'The deceased's ex-wife and daughter did not even have the chance to send him off,' he said. 'This is most unfortunate as all Chinese regard funerals with great importance.'

The man was buried after the family had not been found within a month. The woman and her daughter, who wished to remain anonymous, contacted Mr Chan for help because they could not pay the fee to retrieve the body. The ex-wife is a welfare recipient.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is responsible for disposing of unclaimed bodies. It has no mechanism within the department to waive or reduce the fees to be paid by those who wish to claim back the remains. They can only approach the Social Welfare Department for assistance.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said it usually took one to two months for the police to retrieve data from the Immigration Department.

'Investigation and searches in police computer databases were immediately made after police discovered the deceased,' Mr Lee said.

'The police had also requested data from the Immigration Department, but the procedures normally require one to two months

'Usually, we have to bury the unclaimed dead body one month after it's been discovered because by that time, the decomposition will have reached an extent that would make facial identification very difficult.'

But he admitted there was a need to review the procedures of retrieving data with the Immigration Department. A spokeswoman from the department said the length of time needed for data retrieval depended on whether enough information was provided. The department would consider each case individually.