Anambra sues Mortician over Corpse theft

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Anambra State, Nigeria – In a startling turn of events, the Anambra State Government has taken legal action against Ugochukwu Joseph, the proprietor of New Century Medical Complex Mortuary, located in Isuaniocha, over allegations of a switched corpse.

The lawsuit, initiated by the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare, Ify Obinabo, through the ministry’s legal unit, follows a petition from the family of the deceased, 26-year-old Chinonso Okeke. The family claims that the corpse deposited at the mortuary on August 4, 2023, was exchanged with a different one when they requested it for burial in October 2023.

According to Chidinma Ikeanyionwu, a media aide to Commissioner Obinabo, the deceased’s sister, Rejoice Odogwu, and her husband, Sopuruchukwu Okeke, raised the alarm, asserting that the corpse handed over to them was that of an older woman. They also noted discrepancies such as a hairstyle inconsistent with the late Ms. Okeke’s, suggesting that the corpse had undergone surgery, contrary to the family’s knowledge.

Ms. Ikeanyionwu stated that the family reported instances of intimidation by the mortician after rejecting the alleged “different corpse.” The family claimed that Mr. Joseph had been pressuring them and attempting to settle the matter with a sum of N850,000.

In response to the family’s petition, the Commissioner for Women and Social Welfare probed the matter, eventually transferring it to the ministry’s legal unit. The case has been filed and is set for a hearing at a magistrate court in Achalla, another community in Awka North Local Government Area.

The family, which hails from Ezinifite Okpuno in Awka South Council Area, had chosen to bring the deceased’s body to the Isuaniocha mortuary, located a few miles from their residence in Nkpor, Idemili North Local Government Area, following her death during childbirth.

The media aide noted that while the mortician insisted that the family never visited the mortuary to verify the corpse, the family explained that emotional distress and denial of access to a female relative by the mortuary attendant were factors contributing to their decision.

As this legal drama unfolds, the residents of Anambra State await further developments in this perplexing case of a missing corpse and alleged foul play by a local mortician.