Everything was set for the burial of 39 year old Mrs Jeanette Momoh, formerly of 18 Boyle Lane, Murray Town, who had died on 30 November, 2018 after a brief illness after she was hospitalised at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown.
But at around 10am on Tuesday 18th December, 2018, when the family approached the management of the Connaught Mortuary, which oversees the morgue at the Connaught Hospital the body could not be found.
The Central Police Station Command has arrested four persons working as mortuary staff and attendants over the missing corpse.
The Local Unit Commander, Chief Superintendent Francis Hazeley disclosed that arrests have been made and the four individuals are helping the Police with their investigations.
According to CSP Hazeley, on Tuesday 18th December 2018 they received a complaint from one Reverend Manning, uncle to one Jeanette Momoh, now deceased, aged 39 years.
The complainant said that the body of the deceased was not found when they came to collect the body from the mortuary.
Based on the complaint, CSP Hazeley directed a team of Police to investigate the matter. Preliminary investigations revealed that the corpse of the deceased was deposited at Connaught Mortuary for preservation but when the family went there, erroneously the corpse was not found. CSP Hazeley said that when his Officers visited the scene it was in a chaotic atmosphere but that they were able to bring calm to the family members who were very agitated over the disappearance of their beloved.
The Admin Head and Revenue Collector Peter Augustine Charles and three others were invited for questioning and have now been remanded in custody. LUC Hazeley said that in the absence of the Pathologist Dr. Owizz, one Dr Kalawa who accompanied the mortuary staff to the Police Station has asked the family to give them around four days for them to check for the remains of the late Mrs Momoh.
The family has agreed to the request made by Dr Kalawa and he further stated that if the body is not found they would have to devise another strategy to ascertain what happened with the body.
Earlier at the mortuary, a relative, Rev. Manning, expressed sadness over the incident, threatening legal action against the management of the morgue. He said that the body of his niece was handed over to the mortuary attendants and that they have been in contact with them on several occasions and that they assured the corpse is okay, and there statement was verified when some of the women in the family verified when the body was displayed to them for viewing on Thursday 13th December, 2018.
“I went into the cold room which has more than 100 corpses and we have checked all but my niece is nowhere to be found. They said so many corpses were buried on Friday 14th December, 2018 and now we have people that are in Church waiting” he said.
Revenue Collector Charles said that the corpse was received by Kadiatu Kargbo the lead for the B shift on that day and said that he is not in charge of administration, “we are not morticians and we do not have anything to do with the cold room” he said. Charles who was speaking before his detention said that they ensure that the right process is followed and the corpse are given the right tag and assigned to specific attendants who will be responsible to monitor until the corpse is collected.
“As you can see we received different categories of corpses here, pauper, accident victims and so on, so it takes time for people to even come and identify their relatives” he said.
An attendant named Uncle Abu was assigned the said corpse and the relatives were at the morgue on Thursday to confirm with them about the final preparation for burial.
“They came here they met the body, they viewed it, and it was presented to them by the same man who received the body.” Charles acknowledged that he was at the morgue when the family sent the coffin and dress, “so we asked Uncle Abu who tagged the body to take it out, I was shocked this morning to find out about this. I tried to question them but nothing was explained to me, perhaps they have done some mistake as last Friday a lot of corpses were buried” he explained.
He went on to say that to avoid mistakes and for those working to take ownership for bodies they received, they are assigned different colours for each shift which they use to tag the bodies, pink is for the A shift, blue is for the B shift and orange is for the C shift, “just so that there will not be mistakes” he said.
On the way forward, Charles said that they will have to check at the Kingtom cemetery as many female corpses were buried last Friday, “we are trying so that there will be standards” he said.
Komba Johnny Momoh, husband of the deceased recalled that he was in Makeni when he was informed about his wife’s illness and asked family members around to take her to the hospital. On his arrival to Freetown, Momoh said that he met his wife at the point of death. He was unable to talk to her because she was almost in a coma and later passed on. The family he said agreed that she should be kept at the said mortuary while they make all the necessary arrangement. Family members he said have travelled from the provinces to attend the funeral which was scheduled for the 18th December, and that there should have been a laying-out at the mortuary in the morning, “but unfortunately that didn’t happen because we could not see the body of my wife” he sobbed.
“We went through the right process, we have the death certificate and the body was registered, she is not just a small animal that can just disappear she is a whole human being and cannot disappear like that” he moaned.
“Up to Monday we were in touch with them, and they promised us that everything is in place and we should just come here in the morning to collect the body.”