Funeral-crasher foiled

BY TOM FITZSIMONS
Last updated 05:00 03/06/2010

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A fake mourner who repeatedly gatecrashed Wellington funerals was so keen on the food that he brought along tupperware containers to fill up and take home.

The "grim eater" attended up to four funerals a week during March and April before he was stopped.

Harbour City Funeral Home director Danny Langstraat said the company eventually grew concerned enough to take a photograph of the man and distribute it to its branches.

"He was showing up to funeral after funeral, and without a doubt he didn't know the deceased."

The man, thought to be aged in his 40s, went to different churches and venues around the eastern suburbs, including Miramar, Rongotai and Kilbirnie.

"We saw him three or four times in a week. And certainly he had a backpack with some tupperware containers so when people weren't looking, he was stocking up."

The man was "always very quiet and polite, and did as the rest of the mourners did in paying his respects".

He dressed casually, but that was not unusual at funerals, Mr Langstraat said.

"[It was] not like this person might live on the street or this person has sanitary problems."

But he may have had mental health issues as he was not discreet about taking the food.

Funeral directors quickly alerted families to what was going on. Some had no problem with him being there, but one confronted him and asked him to leave.

He stopped coming after one staff member took the man aside, telling him he could still come to funerals but could not take food home with him.

The man was not the only person to gatecrash funerals organised by the company, but he was the hungriest. "I've been here for 17 years and this is the first time that's happened. It's on the far end of the scale."

The food on offer at funerals usually included quiches, sausage rolls, club sandwiches, biscuits, muffins and pikelets – "all finger food easily dealt with".

Funeral Directors Association president Tony Garing said such cases happened in the industry from time to time.

But it was difficult to stop people from coming – or call their behaviour theft – because funerals were usually public events, he said.

"If it's in a church, or even in a funeral home, if a notice has been published in the paper, it's essentially a public event. That makes it a bit hard to keep people out."

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- The Dominion Post

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