Ugly tales emerge from the crypt
FORMER funeral home employees have spoken out about the ugly practices going on behind closed doors in Queensland’s funeral industry, following Thursday’s coffin-swapping allegations against Hart Family Funerals.
A regional Queensland funeral home worker, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Courier-Mail it was “part of the culture” in the funeral industry to rip people off.
He said it was common practice at his workplace of five years to remove coffin handles before cremation and re-use them on a different coffin.
“They (handles) would cost families around $300 each and they would often be removed from the casket just before cremation to save money,” he said.
“If we had 400 funerals a year, that would happen 200 times. There’s more to this story than being told. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happening all over the state.”
The man claimed his funeral home held a police contract worth $70,000 a year and there had been rampant poor practice occurring.
“I’m sure it happens everywhere,” he said. “It’s shocking that it’s gone on for this long. They’re taking advantage of people at their most vulnerable time.”
The author of funeral action plan guide The Bottom Drawer Book, Lisa Herbert, said Queensland’s funeral industry was “a confusing mess”.
“Queensland doesn’t have any standalone legislation governing burials and cemeteries and funerals,” she said. “There’s a dozen Acts that make mention here and there of things relating to funerals.”
The funeral director accused of switching a grandmother’s “gorgeous” $1700 coffin for a $70 pine box between the funeral and cremation has broken his silence.
Rockhampton police are investigating Harts Family Funerals after a fraud complaint from the family of local woman Janice Cecilia Valigura.
Ms Valigura’s niece Kerry Rothery told The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin an ornate casket was carried out by Mrs Valigura’s grandchildren from her requiem mass for transportation to the crematorium.
She later saw her aunt had been wrapped in plastic in a cheap pine coffin at the crematorium, with personal letters written by her grandchildren and placed on her heart tossed inside.
Ms Rothery claimed that the next day when they met funeral director Tony Hart, they were told the practice was “commonplace”.
Mr Hart has since told the Courier-Mail he performed the swap to prevent the expensive coffin cracking in the cold, as a delay at the crematorium meant Mrs Valigura’s coffin had to be returned to the freezer.
“The coffin she was cremated in was the same one that the family bought,” he said.
He denied ever cremating someone in a different coffin to the one their family had paid for, or ever re-using a coffin.