Frozen placentas stolen from Invercargill family in alleged break-in

Katarina Fowler and Jamie Brosnahan's freezer where two placentas had been stored.
NICOLE JOHNSTONE

Katarina Fowler and Jamie Brosnahan's freezer where two placentas had been stored.

Some bad karma could be coming to whoever might have taken a pair of frozen placentas, an Invercargill family says.

Couple Katarina Fowler and Jamie Brosnahan returned to their home in Pomona St at 9.30pm on Saturday, only to discover their house had been broken into and two placentas, from children Kyro, 5, and Cee-Jay, 4, missing from the freezer.

Fowler said that although a police report had been filed, charges would be dropped if the placentas were returned.

"We don't want anything back except the placentas."

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Brosnahan said it was very bad karma to steal a placenta.

"Stealing placentas is tapu," he said.

"You mess with it ... that's bad karma."

Fowler said the placentas were being kept in the freezer until a place could be found for them to be buried, as per Maori tradition.

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The house might have been broken into around December 28 or 29, because a neighbour came by after hearing noises and took photos, thinking they might have "trashed the place" and fled, Fowler said.

Fowler and Brosnahan were visiting family in Timaru at the time.

Brosnahan said it was a spur-of-the-moment trip, and no one knew they were leaving.

"We wanted the house spotless when we left so we didn't have to clean."

Yet when they returned, the home was a mess.

"We came back and the house was a pigsty," he said.

"All the beds were pulled out from the walls and moved. It was like they were searching for something."

Besides the placentas, other items including a TV, knife blocks, drawers, steam mops, blankets, a Lux vacuum cleaner and meat from the freezer were taken, Brosnahan said.

"We had probably over $100 of meat in there," he said, adding that the only things left in the freezer were some bread crusts for the children to feed to ducks and some mixed vegetables.

"We don't care about the other stuff – that can be replaced. But the placentas came from the womb. We can't get those placentas back any other way. We've got tradition to uphold."

Fowler said it was extremely important to get the placentas back.

"It's a big thing for a Maori woman to lose a placenta."

The missing placentas was especially unsettling because a neighbour had reported two cats that had been found dead in circumstances suggesting they had been killed around the same time, he said.

"As much as I regret leaving, I'm glad we did. Because what if that [someone breaking in] happened when the kids were here?"

A police forensics team visited the house on Sunday morning, Brosnahan said. He said they found blood in the kitchen.

The family was already planning on moving to Ashburton on Wednesday, he said.

"After this, I just don't want to be here."

It is not the first time placentas in Southland had allegedly been stolen. In 2010, Invercargill woman Jacinta Gilbert reported a planter pot containing the buried placentas of the great-great-grandsons of the late Dame Whina Cooper were stolen from her home.

In Maori tradition, after a baby is born it is customary to bury the whenua (placenta), in recognition that humans were made from Papatuanuku. Burying the placenta symbolises new life and growth, and is often done in a place with important spiritual or ancestral connections.

Ben Mack: @benaroundearth

 - Stuff

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