Review of rules after body exhumed without whānau’s knowledge

Associate Health Minister Health Aupito William Sio is promising to look into the process for granting disinterment licences, after 1News revealed it allowed the body of an Auckland man to be exhumed without his mother's knowledge.

Rewa Sullivan, who gave birth to and raised the late Matiu Sullivan, says she is distraught this has happened to her son.

"They'd left track marks all over the place and they'd left mud all over the concrete in the paths. We had stuff laid on him to signify where he was, and they had taken it all off," she said.

In a statement, Sio said he wanted to ensure the process was "fit for purpose" and "culturally appropriate" for whānau in Aotearoa.

The Ministry of Health has come under fire from the Sullivan whānau after failing to inform them that it had granted his partner a disinterment licence to exhume and relocate Matiu's body.

The ministry is required to get a written statement from all next of kin before granting a disinterment licence, but this never occurred.

It told 1News it could not comment on this specific case for privacy reasons, but said consultation within the ministry was undertaken where appropriate for every application.

READ MORE: Auckland mum shocked after son’s body exhumed without her knowledge

"If the application meets the ministry’s guidelines, no additional consultation would be undertaken," a ministry spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Health has granted 136 disinterment licences since 2019, including 16 so far this year.

Last month, 1News also reported that a Lower Hutt widow was left distraught after her husband's body was taken from her home on June 5 by his whānau, who took it to Northland for burial.

READ MORE: Lower Hutt widow distraught as husband's body forcibly taken from home

Tommy Murray's grieving widow Sara described how a number of her husband's whānau visited the house, before taking his coffin away in a van.

"I was on the phone to the police screaming for them to come. And they've taken my husband out without his lid, they didn't even put the lid on the coffin."

Tommy's death was sudden and he didn't leave a will.

"He didn't know where he wanted to go and said, 'I want to stay with you, I want to stay with you so cremate me' and that's all I was doing, honouring my husband's wishes," said Sara.