Exhumation follows uncomfortable funeral where relatives “did not recognise loved one”

The funeral of a much-loved grandmother in Lagoa took an unhappy turn last week when relatives went to pay their last respects only to discover they didn’t recognise their loved one at all.

The body in the coffin they were laying to rest was much too thin, and appeared to have no teeth.

“When I saw the body in the church I said straight away, ‘that woman was not my grandmother’ because she was a heavy woman, and the woman I was looking at was much thinner than I am”, a shocked Carla Soares told Correio da Manhã.

Carla’s mother also “could not recognise” the woman in the coffin, she said, and was confused by her apparent “lack of teeth”.

Nonetheless, the funeral went ahead, albeit not very comfortably – and the woman’s relatives returned to their homes.

The next day however, came the bombshell. Portimão hospital admitted a “lamentable” mix-up. The family had not buried 87-year-old Maria Teresa Carvalho. They had buried another octogenarian, Maria Celeste, whose family in Ovar had failed to claim the body.

As Maria Celeste was given a “dignified” send-off and laid to rest, the body of Maria Teresa Carvalho remained in refrigerated drawer at Portimâo hospital mortuary.

Health bosses have opened an internal inquiry to try and discover how such a mistake could have been made, but in the meantime, the Public Ministry is expected to order the exhumation of Maria Celeste’s grave, so that Maria Teresa can be laid to rest in the plot her family purchased on her behalf.

Said Carla Soares, the hope is that a replacement plot can be found for Maria Celeste, whose family members this far have not come forwards.

This kind of burial mix-up happens every so often in Portugal, particularly as many people have similar names (click here).

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