Gravedigger dug up bodies illegally, report alleges

A ROGUE grave digger in Victoria's north allegedly dug up bodies, moved ashes and sold cemetery property for personal gain and should be referred to the police, according to the state's integrity watchdog.

A disturbing report into the Mildura Cemetery Trust by Ombudsman Deborah Glass has found

former grave digger Darren Bock had been involved in improper conduct during his two decade tenure at the Nichols Point and Murray Pines cemeteries.

In at least four cases it is alleged bodies had been removed from graves at Mr Bock's request without the proper licences.

In some cases this was to relocate the bodies to their correct graves, or to a new plot or vault and to retrieve DNA.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says matter should be referred to police. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says matter should be referred to police. Picture: Alex Coppel.

In one shocking case witnesses said a woman was buried in the wrong plot and later moved.

A daughter broke down in tears at her mother's funeral in September 2015 after realising her mother was being put into the wrong plot "and was so upset she needed to be carried away".

Another woman that had already been buried in her grave had to be exhumed and moved, family members attended to walk the coffin to its new spot.

In another case, a cemetery officer witnessed Mr Bock not following proper procedure when exhuming a body for DNA testing.

"When we arrived, Darren was down in the grave with the exposed remains of [Mr F]," the officer told investigators.

"The grave was quite deep, [two other people] and I were standing approximately one metre from the edge of the grave. … Darren sifted through the remains and picked up one of the femurs."

Other allegations against Mr Bock also include ashes being moved around the cemetery without proper consultation with families, unapproved monuments being erected and graves marked with the wrong numbers.

He is also alleged to have been taking kickbacks from funeral directors, charging fees incorrectly and selling memorial seats for personal gain.

"What is apparent from the available evidence is that what presents as a willingness by Mr Bock to 'cut corners', manifests as a disregard for the deceased, their bereaved, Mr Bock's colleagues and superiors as well as his own professional obligations," Ms Glass wrote.

She has recommended the matter be referred to Victoria police, especially in relation to the exhumations and has also called for better oversights by the trust and Mildura Rural City Council.