Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
A RUSAPE man — who stole a corpse from a hospital mortuary, burnt it beyond recognition in a fake accident before defrauding Old Mutual Funeral Services of $70 000 — has been slapped with a 23-year prison term.
David Garudzo (27), formerly employed by the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC), connived with a mortuary attendant at Mutare General Hospital to steal a corpse in a bid to fake his own death and burnt it in a hired Toyota Spacio to conceal evidence.
Garudzo later instructed his relatives to disguise as if he was the one who had died in an accident, make a traffic accident report to the police before burying the remains of a stranger at their rural home in Rusape.
Armed with a fake burial order, death certificate, police traffic accident report, a copy of Garudzo’s national identity card and other relevant documents, Garudzo’s wife Primrose Jecha, went to Old Mutual offices in Mutare to claim benefits from Garudzo’s funeral policy.
She misrepresented that her husband had died before being paid $70 000.
Garudzo went into hiding until Monday when he was spotted and arrested at Simon Vengai Muzenda (Fourth Street) Bus Terminus in Harare.
Upon being searched by the police, an unlicensed firearm and rounds of ammunition were recovered.
Garudzo yesterday pleaded guilty to violating a corpse, malicious damage to property, fraud and contravening the Firearms Act before Rusape regional magistrate Mr Livingston Chipadza, who sentenced him to 23 years in jail.
He got five years for violating a corpse and another five years for malicious damage to property. For fraud, Garudzo was sentenced to 10 years while he got three years for illegally possessing a firearm.
Rusape district public prosecutor Mr Tirivanhu Mutyasira represented the State in the matter. Police are still looking for Garudzo’s brother-in-law Bernard Neshena, who is believed to be the chief architect in the commission of the crime.
Facts are that Garudzo, his brother Bernard Garudzo, wife Primrose and in-laws hatched a plan to defraud Old Mutual of thousands of dollars in March last year.
As part of the plan, Garudzo opened a funeral benefit plan with Old Mutual with a cover amount of $20 000 where his wife and two minor children were listed as beneficiaries.
Neshena, who is believed to be in the United Kingdom, would send money to subscribe to Old Mutual monthly.
Three months later, the funeral policy cover was upgraded to $70 000 and Garudzo religiously paid the monthly subscriptions.
In July 2014, Garudzo hired a Toyota Spacio from Mr Norman Magaya of Rusape and drove to Mutare together with his accomplices.
They engaged a mortuary attendant at Mutare General Hospital who assisted them to smuggle out a corpse of an unknown man.
The corpse was thrown at the back of the vehicle and they drove towards the Garudzo homestead in Mangomera Village under Chief Makoni.
When they reached Takunda Dam near Odzi, Garudzo placed the corpse in the driver’s seat before pushing the car off the road purporting that it had been involved in an accident.
He later set the vehicle ablaze and the corpse was burnt beyond recognition.
Jecha, acting on Garudzo’s instructions, went to Old Mutual in Mutare where she reported that her husband had died in a traffic accident near Takunda Dam before claiming the insurance cover.
Jecha was carrying her husband’s policy documents, a certified fake copy of Garudzo’s death certificate, a police traffic accident report, copies of her own and Garudza’s identity cards and proof of residence. On February 23 this year, Jecha was given $70 000 by Old Mutual as cover for her husband’s death.
During mitigation, Garudzo pleaded with the court for a lighter sentence saying he only got $7 000 from the offence while the bulk of the money was sent to his brother-in law Mr Neshena in the UK.
Garudzo said his brother-in-law had promised to take him to the UK to cover up the offence, but he never fulfilled the promise.