Grave-shifting case settled in high court

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 15:46 18/12/2012
BURIAL SAGA: James Takamore died of an aneurysm in August 2007.
BURIAL SAGA: James Takamore died of an aneurysm in August 2007.

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After more than five years of arguing, accusations and court action, the final resting place of James Takamore has been decided.

The father-of-two died of an aneurysm in 2007 and was to be buried in Christchurch, where he had lived with Denise Clarke for nearly 20 years.

But his Tuhoe relatives had other plans and spirited his body to the Bay of Plenty where they buried him next to his father at Kutarere Marae, near Opotiki.

Ms Clarke, who is executrix of Mr Takamore's estate, obtained a High Court judgement confirming her right to decide his burial place and ordering her partner's body be exhumed.

The decision was upheld in the Court of Appeal but Mr Takamore's sister, Josephine Takamore, appealed against that decision on the grounds that Tuhoe tikanga, or customary protocol, should decide the location of burial.

In July a two-day Supreme Court hearing was held, with a decision being released this afternoon.

In the decision, Chief Justice Sian Elias said Ms Takamore's appeal had been unanimously dismissed.

There was a common law rule under which the executrix had both the right and duty to dispose of the body of a deceased person.

The rule became operative where there was no agreement among the family on what was to be done, where arrangements had broken down, or where nothing was happening.

Justice Elias said there were valid arguments for both Ms Clarke and Ms Takamore, but Mr Takamore's own life choices should also be taken into account.

"...weighing up the different and valid claims of the parties as best I can, I have concluded that Ms Clarke and her children should in the circumstances of the case be left to decide where Mr Takamore is to be buried."

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