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09.08.2004 Tabloid News

Row Over Corpse Takes Families to Court

By Ghanaian Chronicle

Everything, they say, is worth fighting over, but until recently, little did anyone expect that the fight over the mortal remains of a young man, in terms of who should bury him and where he should be buried, would be so serious that it would have to be heard at the Koforidua High Court!

Mr. Joseph Akor Ayertey, alias 'Container', a trader of Agormanya in the Manya Krobo district, sparked off what could be termed, in this age and time, as 'the unthinkable'.

The 38-year old director of Royal Oak Enterprises and distributor of Lever Brothers and Nestle products, passed away quietly at the Atua Government Hospital, after a protracted illness on Thursday, 22nd July, 2004, but peace would not prevail in the family, as the wife and parents of the deceased defied efforts of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, where they all worshipped, and rushed to the highest legal forum in the eastern region, to determine who had the legal right to bury the corpse.

While the parents, Samuel Arku Ayertey and Madam Mary Yoo Ayertey, felt it behoved on them to lay their son peacefully in accordance with the dictates of the Ayertey family of Hwekper, the widow, Mrs. Faustina Akor, thought otherwise and demanded that the body be laid in the matrimonial home.

She felt apprehensive that she might be sidelined in the thick of affairs, and rushed to the courts, even in the midst of on-going arbitration by the church.

According to evidences gathered by The Chronicle, elders like Rev. Padi, chairman of the Dangme-Tongu Presbytery, Rev. Djangma, Presbytery Clerk and Pastor of the Kodjonya Assembly, Rev. Ollenu, head of the Odumase-Krobo district, and Mrs. Beatrice Adamasi, ordained minister and head of the Saisi branch of the church, formed the core of the panel that woefully failed to let sanity prevail among the aggrieved members, even after a couple of meetings, until the courts waded into the matter.

According to documents in the paper's possession, Faustina contacted her lawyers, Raphael B.K. Aboagye of Chidi Chambers, and on the 16th of July, filed a writ at the High Court on a 22-point statement of claim against the parents jointly and severally. Fausty prayed the court to compel the defendants to arrange the burial and funeral together with her or alternatively, permit her to take up the burial and funeral of her husband, among other reliefs.

Five days later, the same chambers served a motion on notice of interlocutory injunction at the same High Court, to be moved on Tuesday, 27th July, praying for an order to restrain the defendants from removing the body of their clients from the mortuary for burial and funeral rites without the knowledge of its client.

The Chronicle gathered that when the case was eventually called in court, the judge, in his wisdom, decided to hear it in court. After listening to the merits of the case, he adjourned it to Thursday, the 29th day of the same month for ruling.

But in a dramatic turn, the initial show of bravado demonstrated in the case, soon fizzled out, as the solicitor wrote to the registrar of the court that his client no longer wished to pursue the case.

Interestingly, a letter to that effect, dated the very day the case was first heard and signed by Lawyer Aboagye, read among others: "My client has advised me that she will no longer contend with the defendants who appear to have a stronghold."

The letter withdrawing the case, which was copied to Francis Polley Esq. Counsel for defendants, continued that the plaintiff had decided to allow the defendants to do whatever they liked with the body of their son; adding that in the light of those instructions, the application could be struck out.

Another puzzling aspect of the development to residents of Odumase-Krobo and many local church members was the way Mrs. Beatrice Adumasi, ordained minister of the church, who happened to be the mother of the complainant, and her daughter, virtually 'dribbled' presbytery elders who were genuinely seeking peace in the Ayertey family.

This was because, in the heat of the numerous sittings at the Odumase Mission House, coupled with prayers from the cream of reverend ministers seeking the good lord's divine intervention, legal documents were being filed in far away Koforidua, without the knowledge of the elders.

And when on the 18th day of July in the year of our Lord, the mission house was once again packed with grey-haired ministers to brainstorm on the 'burial palaver', little did any of them envision that they were wasting their efforts and prayers.

Yut available documents in the paper's possession proved conclusively that a writ had been filed as far back as July 16. And to the utter disbelief of members, the order to send the case to 'people of the world' for determination got to them on 19th July, barely 24 hours after they had dispersed from the mission house.

Insiders of the church, who would not like to be named, fumed that the elders had been deliberately 'fooled', and called for some sort of disciplinary action to be taken against whoever hardened his or her heart in the matter.

They contended that snubbing the church elders' advice and now bowing out at the court was an indication that the church was doing the right thing before reason failed to prevail along the line. Indeed, a number of them were angry at the developments.

Speaking to this reporter in his Hwekper home, Mr. Ayertey, father of the deceased, said he was shocked at all the hullabaloo over his son's death.

"How can I so painfully lose my son, only to be dragged to court again, not as a suspect in his death, but to answer charges on where to bury him?" he asked.

Asked what action he intended to take on the matter, Ayertey said he would reserve all comments till after the burial of his son, which was now slated on Saturday, 14th August.

Madam Yoo, mother of the deceased, only said she had never heard of nor seen any such a thing all her life, and advised young couples of today to give a little respect to their in-laws, no matter how poor or wretched they might look.

Meanwhile, efforts to locate the widow for comments failed, as she could not be traced in the matrimonial home or the shop at Agormanya.

'Container' is survived by four children and one brother, Daniel Tetteh Ayertey, a trader.

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