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Hundreds of calls received to help locate deceased woman’s family before burial

People who knew Ruwayda Tol, 32, were present at the gravesite when she was buried. Picture: Supplied

People who knew Ruwayda Tol, 32, were present at the gravesite when she was buried. Picture: Supplied

Published May 11, 2022

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Cape Town - Members of the public hurried to locate the family and arrange for the burial of a woman who died in hospital last month.

Ruwayda Tol, 32, was admitted to Victoria Hospital on April 17 and died on April 19.

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Muslim undertaker at Khan and Sons, Umr Khan, said the funeral home was contacted but the family could not be identified and reached.

He said that once every three months the funeral home was notified about such cases. Khan would then put a notice on social media, while arranging the funeral.

“What very often happens, a family member does contact us but because of fear that they might have to contribute towards the funeral cost, they normally just tell us to go ahead and let them know as to where the person is buried, simply because they are also not financially able to assist.”

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Tol’s body was accidentally sent to Fern Funerals and Khan was contacted on Friday. Fern Funerals released the body on Monday. Thereafter the washing, shrouding and funeral prayers will be performed, with the burial at the Klip Road Cemetery.

Khan and Sons visited an informal dwelling near Fishermans Walk, Grassy Park, the inhabitants of which knew the deceased.

Khan said: “She’s got no family in Cape Town whatsoever. She came from Beaufort West about 10 to 15 years ago, and she had worked for a short while for a Sassman family in Grassy Park. She stopped working there and just sort of strolled in that area, knocking on doors for food and help, sometimes sleeping at that family’s house.”

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About 400 people contacted Khan. Two offered to pay for the funeral expenses, Khan said.

Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson Mark van der Heever said when a person died in hospital, a next of kin listed on the patient sheet was contacted. If there was none, the body was taken to forensic pathology services as an unknown/unidentified.

“This body is kept for a certain period. If unclaimed for a period, a pauper burial is then arranged via the state, with all relevant identification documented,” he said.

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Moulana Sayed Imraan Ziyaee, Cape Town Islamic Educational Centre principal who is assisting with Tol’s funeral, said the centre helped with at least 10 similar cases a month, if able to.

“It’s not always that relatives can’t be reached, but most of the time it’s families who cannot afford to pay the burial costs.”

People who knew Ruwayda Tol, 32, were present at the gravesite when she was buried. Picture: Supplied

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