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Gatecrasher tells corpse to 'wake up'

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 15:27 20/12/2012
Funeral gatecrashers
John Bisset
CHANTING: An unknown man knelt before the coffin to pray, saying God had ordered him to do it.
Funeral gatecrashers
John Bisset
DOUBLE ACT: The two well-dressed men were not known to the deceased's family.

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A man gatecrashed a Christchurch funeral, knelt before the coffin, began chanting and ordered the deceased to "wake up".

Close family friend Alex Weaver said mourners who had gathered at the John Rhind Chapel in Richmond yesterday afternoon to farewell Harold Ritchie, 90, were left shocked and stunned. Ritchie died on Friday.

He said the incident, which happened when the minister invited people to come up and say a few words, "blighted" an otherwise pleasant service.

"We thought it was all over, next thing this young fella comes down the centre aisle and shook hands with the people on the left and right of the aisle, the family. Then without saying a word he went up to the coffin and he started speaking in tongues - the whole gamut.

"Then he went on his knees and started praying and laying his hands on the casket."

Weaver said his son-in-law, who was a long-established pastor, was leading the service. "He looked at me and I looked at him and thought 'oh goodness where are we going to go from here?' Rather than cause a scene we just let the guy go on then cornered him after.

"Several of us gave him a real roasting," he said.

Weaver said family and friends wanted to ensure no-one else had to go through what happened that day.

"We don't want a witchhunt or anything like that, we just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else," he said.

Weaver said the man, aged in his 20s and dressed in a suit, explained that God had told him to do it.

This morning, the man's pastor rang to apologise for his behaviour, Weaver said.

John Rhind Funeral general manager Tony Gearing said he was aware of incidents where people who did not know the deceased or the family attended a funeral for the refreshments, but nothing like this.

"It's the first time I've ever heard of it," he said.

Gearing said it was not until after the man finished that it was found out that he did not know the family or the deceased.

"It's a totally inappropriate thing for someone to do. The concern is that he's going to crop up at other funerals."

Gearing said other funeral homes would be notified.

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