Grave robbers have stolen human remains from an Australian cemetery in two separate incidents over the past week, leaving police struggling to determine a motive.
A spokesperson for Victoria Police told VICE World News that the first theft took place at Melbourne’s Footscray cemetery overnight between the 27th and 28th of January, while the second occurred between Monday night and Tuesday morning. In both instances the thieves forced their way into mausoleums, removed coffins and desecrated the graves. Nothing appeared to have been taken other than the “partial human remains.”
It has been reported that the stolen remains were human heads, but the police refuse to confirm which body parts were stolen.
"It appears the human remains were the focus of the offender, and that's what we've been focusing on," Acting Inspector Ben Jarman told the media on Wednesday, noting that the mausoleum-style burial sites would have required equipment to break into. Candles, crucifixes and letters to Satan were found in the cemetery, according to 7 News, raising questions as to whether the incidents might be linked to devil worship. The police have not publicly ruled this out.
“Because it’s such an uncommon crime to be committed, until we catch up with the offender and find out a motive, it’s very difficult to say what the motive is,” Jarman said.
Extra security has been installed at the cemetery in the wake of the robberies, including four high-resolution cameras, and police patrols have increased. Jarman said there was “very little CCTV” at the time of the incidents.
Police are aware of an attempt on a third grave, as well as a fourth that was disturbed but did not contain human remains, as it was a pre-purchased plot. The thefts were reported to police after passersby noticed graves had been damaged.
The removal of body parts can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison, and police are now urging anyone who may have witnessed suspicious activity in the area over the last week to come forward. It’s unclear how many people were involved in the crimes.
“It is difficult to say whether they are acting alone,” said Jarman. “There is a … lot of work to get into these mausoleums, there was a substantial amount of damage, but too early to say at this stage.”
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