Beitbridge Bureau — The 56-year-old mortuary attendant at Beitbridge district hospital accused of fleecing parents of their money after promising to dispose the bodies of their three babies in a dysfunctional incinerator will have to wait for his freedom.
A new magistrate will now hear Lawrence Mhuri's trial on January 29 next year following the retirement of Mrs Auxillia Chiumburu who previously handled the matter.
The case had been set for judgment on Tuesday and Beitbridge resident magistrate Miss Gloria Takundwa remanded Mhuri for trial by a new magistrate.
Mhuri, who is employed as a security guard, also doubles as a mortuary attendant at the health institution.
He is facing three counts of contravening a section of the Criminal Law Reform and Codification Act (violating a corpse).
Mhuri is denying the charges and was remanded out of custody on $50 bail.
Prosecutor Mr Foster Abheki alleges that on January 1 this year Ms Fortune Vengesai of Dulibadzimu Township in the border town had a still birth and the baby was kept in the mortuary at the district hospital.
He said Mhuri approached Ms Vengesai the following day and offered to cremate the corpse at a cost of R300 in the hospital incinerator.
This was despite the fact that the incinerator had been dysfunctional for three years.
Mhuri allegedly cremated the body by burning the corpse at the hospital backyard in the absence of the woman and other relatives.
He allegedly used petrol to carry out the cremation. Mhuri is also accused of violating the hospital procedure and converting the R300 to his own use.
It is the state case that in the second incident, which occurred on May 16, Nomsa Jacob's eight-month-old baby died at her Alpha house in the same town.
She took the corpse to the district mortuary in the company of other relatives so that they could make funeral arrangements. Mhuri, who offered to cremate the body for a fee of R350, approached them.
He was given the money but did not cremate the corpse. He later told the relatives that he had cremated the baby in their absence.
The body was later discovered in June dumped at the hospital's waste organic pit during a photo shoot. The mother identified the corpse during police investigation.
The state further alleged that on 21 June another woman Locadia Hove had a still birth at the same health institute and was also approached by Mhuri.
Mhuri duped the mother in the same manner and took the body to the town's waste management centre, 5 km west of the hospital where he disposed the body.
Mhuri was arrested following the discovery of the second corpse and he led police to all the three points he had disposed off the bodies.