24 Nov 2011

Widow refuses to give up fight over husband's body

12:20 pm on 24 November 2011

The widow of a man whose family stole his body from a Christchurch marae says she believes she will get her husband's body back and won't give up until she does.

James Takamore's Bay of Plenty family removed his body from the marae following his death in 2007 and took it back to be buried at at a family cemetery on Tuhoe land.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday returned the dispute between the two families to the High Court.

It ruled that taking the body was unlawful and the case would have to be resolved in the High Court if the families could not first resolve the matter amicably.

Mr Takamore's wife Denise Clarke says she will enter into negotiations with her husband's family, but only to determine how the body will be returned.

"They haven't treated us very well, they've put us through hell," she says.

Ms Clarke says she wants the family to apologise and come to terms with the fact that she has won the case legally.

Call for law change

Retiring Wigram MP Jim Anderton says the law needs to be changed to stop family fights over where bodies are buried.

Mr Anderton has been helping Ms Clarke to try to get her husband's body back.

He says four years on, the courts are still unable to resolve the situation.

"This family has gone through the fires of hell and I feel very sorry for them and I feel a bit ashamed by the fact our legal process will not honour the tradition and culture of one group of people versus another," he says.

Mr Anderton says a law change would help provide clarity on the issue.

A Maori academic, Professor Ranginui Walker, says it's unlikely Mr Takamore's body will be returned.

He says Mr Takamore's Christchurch family were on the back foot when his Tuhoe relatives arrived at the marae to ask for the body to be taken back to his ancestral cemetery because they had nobody to argue the case for why he should remain in Christchurch.