IN A bizarre find yesterday morning, 33 empty coffins, estimated to be worth about R330 000, were found hidden in bushes on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth.
After the discovery, about 100m from Tarentaal Street in Greenbushes, police confiscated the coffins and took them to Kabega Park police station while they attempt to track down the owner.
Police spokesman Captain Johan Rheeder said the wooden coffins, with ornate metal handles, were found during a routine patrol of the area.
“The officers who were on patrol noticed something in the bushes and went to investigate. The 33 coffins were found just lying there. Most of them are still wrapped in plastic packaging, as if they were being transported,” he said.
“It is a very bizarre discovery. Due to the size of these coffins and volume of the load they were obviously dropped off by a truck of some kind. We suspect that they were stolen. However, there are no markings or insignia on them that say where they come from.”
Detectives suspect the coffins could have been en route to the harbour for export or, more likely, have been imported and were in transit to their destination in South Africa when stolen.
“We really do not know where they come from. We do not suspect that the coffins were used to smuggle goods but think that they were hidden in the bush with the intention of being retrieved or collected later. It is also possible that they were stashed there with the intention of using them to smuggle goods inside.
“These are all possibilities that are under investigation,” Rheeder said.
“The only lead we have to go by is a piece of paper with a bar code and a Chinese symbol inside one of the coffins. Detectives are going to be asking an interpreter if the symbol perhaps is a brand logo which would allow them to track where they came from.”
Rheeder said detectives had spoken to the state mortuary and various local undertakers throughout the Eastern Cape to determine who the coffins belonged to.
“We are pretty sure that these are not from Port Elizabeth. None of the undertakers that have been contacted were missing coffins,” he said.
The coffins will remain at the police station while the investigation continues.
appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, February 9 , 2013.