Crime-ation (noun): hiding a crime of murder by cremating the body of the victim and disposing of the ashes.
That’s a word I have just coined to add to the crime lexicon. A proper name that has also just come up is “Camp Crime”; it was derived from Camp Crame, the name of the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police, where a heinous crime, the murder of a South Korean kidnap-for-ransom victim, was carried out in October 2016 by PNP members. The crime site was just a stone’s throw away from the residence of PNP chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
According to initial investigations, South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was murdered on the day that he was abducted—yet ransom was exacted from his family. The prime suspects, ranking police officials, are now in hot water. There is finger-pointing as to who masterminded the deed, who carried out the deed, who stood to gain from the deed. It was, to borrow a title from the Miss Marple movie series, murder most foul.
Jee’s body was cremated in a regular (licensed and operating) funeral facility. This is the part of the criminal modus that I am interested in. I have not known of anything like this, not even from the “CSI” series on TV that features unimaginable crimes being solved through pluck, luck, and, most importantly, scientific means.
We’ve known of human corpses being incinerated, buried in the ground, sealed in drums, or thrown into the sea. The perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao/Ampatuan massacre used a backhoe to dig a mass grave where the dead were hastily buried. More than 50 persons, including media workers and passersby, lost their lives in that preelection massacre.
The killers of Ruby Rose Barrameda put her corpse in a drum that was sealed with concrete and thrown into the waters off Navotas. When the drum was fished out in 2009, Barrameda’s body was there, intact and with signs of the cruelty she underwent. Her estranged husband was the prime suspect.
Hitler used gas chambers and incinerators in the Nazi concentration camps to wipe out millions of Jews from the face of the earth. Photographs and documentary films from the World War II archives show piles of emaciated bodies ready for disposal. I have the book “The Last Days of Dachau” which has photos of the dead and near-dead that the Allied Forces found when they arrived.
In this day and age it is difficult to hide such mass extermination or what we call ethnocide.
I have always wondered about rescue and retrieval groups operating after tragedies. Do they take photos of the unidentified dead in body bags and number them before these are temporarily buried or cremated en masse?
Modern-day cremation facilities taking part in a crime cover-up, as in Jee’s case, was unheard-of in the past. An anticrime group is now seeking an investigation into the cremation procedures of mortuaries. What papers should be required in cremation—the dead’s identity, death certificate, family’s consent, etc.?
Once the corpse of a crime victim is cremated, the so-called main body of evidence is erased. There is no body to exhume and autopsy, no DNA to extract, no poisons to find. The ashes, if preserved, are almost of the same kind as other ashes, except perhaps if there are metals that survived the extreme heat.
In Jee’s case, there was only his golf set that was found in the funeral facility, a supposed gift in exchange for services rendered. But surely there were witnesses—the undertakers, for example—who handled Jee’s corpse and prepared it for cremation. What were they told, what did they know? Who took away the ashes and flushed these down the toilet?
A report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism says Jee was cremated as “Jose Ruamar Salvador, Filipino.”
Did anyone take a photo—surreptitiously, or as a regular procedure—of the dead Jee? Did it occur to any of the undertakers that there might be foul play? And that they were performing a “crime-ation”? Are they also criminally liable?
Are authorities looking into this new criminal modus? Time to put funeral facilities and their services under scrutiny. Dead men tell no tales, or so it is said, but there is no such thing as a perfect crime.
Send feedback to [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.