A family says bad cops and shakedowns kept them from recovering the body of a deceased loved-one for five days.
Relatives of a deceased Vietnamese-Canadian have accused a policeman and several others of attempting to extort money from them as they struggled to recover his body.
For refusing to pay kickbacks, the family said they endured a five-day nightmare before picking up the body at a hospital in District 7. The saga concluded with them discovering that the body had been autopsied without their consent.
A relative of the dead man, who asked not to be named, said the 57- year-old Viet Kieu known only as N., was taken to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City's District 2 on the night of September 8 following a stroke.
Doctors told the family he died before reaching the hospital. Regulations state that district police are in charge of all postmortem investigations, including autopsy examinations, and the issuance of death certificates.
The process often takes no more than one day.
The distressed relative said after N. was pronounced dead, a District 2 policeman identified only as D. met them at the hospital and asked them to take the body to the District 7 Hospital. They would receive instructions at the facility on how to proceed from there, the policeman was quoted as telling the family.
A car was mobilized to the hospital in District 2 hospital to take the body to District 7 Hospital and two men onboard offered to take care of everything for between US$4,500 and $6,500, the relative said.
"After refusing the service, policeman D. asked us to come to [District 2's] Thao Dien Ward People's Committee [the local government]," he said. "D. told us he would issue the death certificate."
But, he said D. later changed his mind and asked them to conduct the procedures themselves at Thao Dien Ward Police Office, saying "just try to see if you can handle it!"
After failing to obtain related documents from the police office, N's relatives phoned D. and were told to meet him the following day [Friday] at the District 2 Police Office. Instead, the family sought help from the Canadian Consulate General in HCMC.
After securing an official request for assistance from the General Consulate, the distraught family called D. for an appointment on September 13 (Monday) to obtain official release for the corpse and a death certificate. D. said they couldn't get the body of their relative back that day because he was busy taking his wife to a doctor's appointment.
The frustrated residents managed to meet D. later in the day and, after two hours of waiting at the police station, they were instructed to come to District 7 Hospital to pick up the body.
"D. and some others went to District 7 Hospital. The two men who had propositioned us were also present," he said. "At the hospital, we caught a glimpse of the doctors cutting the skull, chest and belly [of N.], although we had not been notified about the autopsy and the Consulate General had requested no such examination."
Thanh Nien contacted Nguyen Van Tue, Chief Investigator at the District 2 Police Department and he said he would report the case to higher authorities.
"It is clear that N's family was livid," he said. "In this case, it was necessary to carry out an autopsy examination to identify the actual cause of the death. But if their accusations are true, the behavior of the involved policeman is unacceptable."
He also said D. was wrong to ask N's relatives to handle things alone at Thao Dien Ward Police station because only District police are to handle those procedures for the bereaved.