A police probe has been launched after a bizarre incident where a whole human head was stolen from a Melbourne cemetery — in what is reportedly the second instance of grave robbing to mire this specific cemetery.
Detectives were called to Footscray General Cemetery on Tuesday to investigate the theft of a head from a casket inside a mausoleum, the Herald Sun reports.
According to the Herald Sun, a coffin could be seen leaning against a structure as police looked for fingerprints, inspected the casket and bagged evidence.
Emergency workers in blue hazmat-esque suits were seen carrying a crucifix and handwritten notes from the mausoleum.
Police investigated the grave site for over six hours, leaving at approximately 5.30pm.
According to the ABC, this is the second Footscray grave robbery, with the first theft happening four days earlier. Police believe the two instances are linked, though this doesn’t mean the individuals were related.
The identity of the bodies involved have not been revealed out of respect for their families, who detectives say are distressed.
“We’ve been in communication with those families [affected],” Acting Inspector Ben Jarman said, per ABC.
“And it’s very distressing, obviously, this is totally unexpected. They expect their loved ones to be put to rest in the cemetery.”
Police reported that there were personal artefacts buried with the bodies in the mausoleum, but the only things that appear to be stolen were human remains.
While the investigation looks like something you’d see daily in the Criminal Minds universe, grave-robbing is actually a rare type of crime — in this context, at least. There’s plenty of history around ‘body snatching’, which is the practice of stealing dead bodies for scientific (typically medical) research.
And then there’s the colonial side of things: the rise of TikTok’s “bone collector” resurfaced discourse around stealing native and oppressed people’s bodies for interests that masquerade as “anthropology” but are actually just kinda racist.
In fact, this has been a political issue around Aboriginal graves right here in Australia for some time — you can read about colonisers robbing native graves for artefacts here.
The point is, grave-robbing has a history of disrespecting personal beliefs, traditions and cultures of those buried, who deserve to have their resting wishes respected.
Anyone with information regarding the Footscray robberies can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit crimestoppersvic.com.au.