Relative left lying in morgue for four months due to alleged neglect of undertaker

David Rhoda was lying in a mortuary for four months before being cremated. Photo: supplied

David Rhoda was lying in a mortuary for four months before being cremated. Photo: supplied

Published Mar 14, 2023


Cape Town – A Cape Town family is still reeling in shock and explained the disgust they feel about the services they received from an undertaker.

The family of David Rhoda, 37, from Heideveld, said when he died they were hoping to bury him in a dignified manner, yet they received the opposite.

Speaking to IOL, Rhoda’s sister, Joslyn Arendse, said she wanted to expose De Vries Funeral Services after the family were put through what seemed like a nightmare.

Rhoda died on October 12, 2022, from tuberculosis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

David Rhoda's funeral pamphlet in October 2022. l SUPPLIED

DVT is a medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein. These clots usually develop in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis, but they can also occur in the arm.

While they didn’t have a funeral policy in place, the family was referred to undertakers and she dealt with the owner, Adam de Vries.

Rhoda’s funeral was held a week later and the family opted for his remains to be cremated.

Everything seem to be going well until the family were expecting to receive their brother’s ashes.

“David was kind and friendly with many. His body wasn’t treated with respect and dignity like any family would expect from a funeral undertaker,” his sister said.

Undertaker Adam de Vries from De Vries Funeral Services. l SUPPLIED

Arendse and Rhoda were born a year apart and had a relationship like any brother and sister. After his death she felt he deserved a dignified burial. This was the final contribution she could make to his life.

Arendse told IOL alarm bells started ringing when she enquired about the death certificate and death notice on October 26, 2022.

“De Vries promised to deliver during the course of that particular week. On November 16, I enquired again about the paperwork.

“On November 25, I asked him again about the procedures and when exactly the cremation took place,” she said.

All communication was done via WhatsApp. IOL has seen and heard the communication.

“His reply to me in a voice note was: ‘After the funeral we sent the body for cremation’. He (Rhoda) has been cremated and he (De Vries) (would) collect the ashes in Paarl. He said he hasn’t had a chance but will do it on Monday, November 28, 2022, and immediately drop off the ashes.

“De Vries told me Maitland (crematorium) sent the body to Drakenstein as they were too full,” Arendse said.

She tried getting in touch with De Vries on December 12 and 15, but received no response.

Arendse said she then had a dream about her brother which bothered her.

“De Vries was clearly lying to me and bulls****ing me.

“In December, I Googled Paarl/Drakenstein Crematorium and contacted them. My call was answered by a kind gentleman and I told him that I was hoping he could assist me with information about my brother's ashes.

“He asked for the name of the undertakers and my late brother’s full name and ID number. I wasn’t prepared for what I was told next.

“He responded to say, they had tried numerous times to get hold of Mr De Vries but had been unsuccessful and my brother’s body had not been cremated as they required the death notice (BI form).

“He confirmed to say no person can be cremated if all documentation is not present, specifically the death notice,” Arendse said.

This left her shocked, speechless, and overwhelmed with emotions.

The crematorium employee further explained medical professionals had to verify documentation before any cremation could take place.

She was further asked if she could obtain a death notice from the hospital who should have it on their books so her brother could be cremated before Christmas. However, she couldn’t obtain this information.

De Vries continued to ignore her WhatsApp messages.

“De Vries opened my WhatsApp messages but ignored my messages which was so unkind and rude. I told him to WhatsApp me my brother’s death notice. I sent him the clip where he confirmed the cremation has been done and that he just needs to collect the ashes.

“I then again googled De Vries Funeral undertakers and came across another funeral undertaker with the same surname as De Vries.

“I called and this man was helpful when I explained to him the situation at hand and how heartbreaking this ordeal was that was created by De Vries. He sounded shocked.

“This man later sent me a contact number and called me to confirm that I received it. Almost immediately De Vries replied to my WhatsApp messages, claiming he wasn’t ignoring me, but was busy with paperwork, with no apology for his lies.

“De Vries then contacted me via WhatsApp, telling me he was looking for a book to obtain a copy of the death notice and claiming this was the first time the crematorium was requesting the said document. No apology; nothing.

“I verified this with the crematorium and was told that was untrue. This form has always been part of the pack. He (De Vries) never explained why my brother hadn’t been cremated, claiming he didn’t know.

“This also didn’t make any sense to me and I could tell he was once again lying,” Arendse explained.

On January 18, 2023, desperate to find out what was happening, Arendse contacted the crematorium again and was told the facility’s health inspector informed De Vries to collect her brother’s body on January 17, 2023, as they could no longer keep it. Only once all documentation was received, the body would be allowed back for cremation.

She was also informed the crematorium only received her brother’s body on November 14, 2022, and not right after his funeral as had been previously communicated to her.

After speaking to the crematorium, she made contact with De Vries who was unaware she knew her brother’s body was collected.

Again, he was busy.

This prompted Arendse to reach out to the Health Department which assisted her in obtaining the death notice.

She was advised on February 7, 2023, to have De Vries contact the mortuary to check when he could return the body for cremation.

“De Vries called me afterwards, asking if Ryan (Health Department employee) had contacted me. I told him yes.

“I told him he put me through so much trauma, never apologised or said (he was) sorry.

“I explained that Ryan and his team were working around the clock trying to help me to get closure and it was clear that De Vries had no care in the world.

“De Vries is a cold-hearted monster that comes across as kind but he's not,” Arendse told IOL.

By February 13, when she contacted the mortuary situated in Epping where her brother was allegedly being kept, she was told the facility was sold and two bodies were lying there belonging to De Vries which he hadn’t collected. De Vries is alleged to have been unreachable at the time.

Arendse contacted the new owner who apparently stated he was going to file charges against De Vries if the body, which was still in storage, wasn’t cremated.

“So, from about Janaury 17, my brother’s body was being stored a mere 500 metres from where I work. I drove past there every day, every week not even knowing this.

“The new owner of the mortuary confirmed my brother’s body was removed on February 13.

“Fortunately, with assistance from the Health Department my brother was finally cremated on Sunday, February 19, 2023,” Arendse said.

While the family is relieved their loved one has finally been cremated, Arendse added: “I would like more people to be aware of how this undertaker operates and warn them. This ordeal has been traumatising and emotionally draining”.

IOL contacted De Vries Funeral Services via email, phone call and text since February 23.

IOL followed up asking for any response on February 27 on inquiries made.

On Thursday March 2, IOL further sent communication to De Vries with the following questions:

According to Ms Arendse, her brother was buried in October 2022. Is this true?

She said in October 26, 2022 she contacted you regarding his death notice and death certificate which you allegedly said you would deliver later that week. Is this true?

On November 25, Ms Arendse claims to have contacted you and asked when her brother was cremated and what the processes were. You allegedly told her the body was sent for cremation after the funeral. You stated you would collect the ashes in Paarl and immediately drop it off on November 28. Is this true?

Can you confirm if you told her the body was sent to Drakenstein crematorium as Maitland crematorium was too full?

She also claimed to have tried making contact with you on December 12 and 15 but received no response from you. Is this true?

Can you confirm that the BI form was outstanding at the crematorium where Ms Arendse's brother, David Rhoda was lying?

Claims have been made that you have ignored Ms Arendse's WhatsApp texts. Can this be confirmed?

Can you confirm whether you told Ms Arendse you were trying to find the death notice and it was the first time the crematorium requested this information?

Can you confirm if you collected David Rhoda's body from the crematorium on January 17, 2023?

Where you contacted by an employee of the health department named Ryan, regarding this matter?

Can you confirm the mortuary where David Rhoda was being kept was sold and the new owner allegedly had two bodies of yours, which you had not claimed at the time to collect? It is alleged you were unreachable during this period on, is this true?

Can you confirm on February 13, 2023, if you collected the body of David Rhoda at the facility in Epping?

IOL tried following up with phone calls to De Vries to get answers but all calls went unanswered.

We are yet to receive any response.

WhatsApp texts were read but not responded to.