Man given pauper's burial 'despite cops knowing family'

Jeanette Brown stands next to the grave of her brother Elwon Scharnick who was given a pauper's funeral in Meyerton. / Veli Nhlapo
Jeanette Brown stands next to the grave of her brother Elwon Scharnick who was given a pauper's funeral in Meyerton. / Veli Nhlapo

For more than six months a family in Ennerdale worried about their missing sibling, only to find out 39-year-old Elwon Scharnick had died, and police were aware of it.

His sister Jeanette Brown said they did not report him missing immediately because it was not the first time Scharnick, a former substance abuser, had disappeared for a length of time.

"He abused substances for years, but he had been clean for five years. We believe that substance abuse affected the function of his brain. He once left home and we found him after three months, so we were not alarmed at first."

Brown said she constantly contacted police for updates but it was only on December 19 that a police officer informed them Scharnick had died.

"He told my mother that we will find him at Sebokeng mortuary. We wanted to bury him immediately because it had been so long," said Brown.

At the mortuary the following day, she was shocked to discover he had been buried as a pauper on October 10.

A fingerprint identification report from forensics, which contained details including his address and ID number, was concluded on July 7. "The file was returned to the police station on July 17 to trace the family, but they never checked their database or came to us."

The file showed they received his body on April 17.

"He had three stab wounds and his head was bashed. The most painful part was to hear that he was already buried."

Brown said they went to the police station for answers.

"They don't care. To us it's negligence. This is our brother, my mother's son. We were stressed the whole year. As if that was not enough, the family also struggled to find the grave," Brown added.

"They first said he was buried in Jacobskop, but we later found him in Meyerton."

The family wants to give Scharnick a proper burial.

His mother Sarah Scharnick said the thought of witnessing the exhumation traumatised her further.

"It is so painful for me. I just want to give him a proper burial," she said.

His older sister Jeany Louw said they were lucky they could actually bury him.

"There are people who are looking for their loved ones and they'll never find them."

Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said Scharnick's body was found in April in an open veld at Roshnee.

"Police in De Deur registered a case of murder and the victim was unknown at that stage. During December police received forensic reports identifying the deceased."

He said no one had been arrested for the murder.