French Parents Visit Cemetery, Discover Son Had Died

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Nathan Benn/Corbis

Talk about shocking discoveries.

On Aug. 18, as they were leaving a cemetery following the burial of a relative near the northern French city Lille, √Člie Langlet and his ex-wife Josiane Vermeersch noticed a marker bearing the name and year of birth of their 42-year-old son, Olivier, in an area reserved for indigent graves. Alarmed by signs of recent interment, the pair called the company that handled the inhumation. Astonishingly, they were then given information from personal documents found on the deceased confirming it was Langlet’s and Vermeersch’s son, who had died July 5 and was buried shortly after without anyone notifying the family.

How is that possible? In its revelation of the incident, the regional Voix du Nord paper quotes Vermeersch saying she’d left messages and left an invitation for the Aug. 18 funeral with Olivier just days before discovering his grave. She said she figured her son’s lack of response indicated he’d gone into one of his reoccurring silent periods, and was perhaps still miffed over a quarrel they’d had. Now she’s demanding to know the exact cause of what the official certificate cites as “natural death,” and wants answers to why someone found dead in his apartment was disposed of in a beggar’s grave when ample means of locating family, including a cell phone, was available.

Vermeersch may be stunned at what she hears. According the owner of the funeral parlor that got the contract from public authorities to bury Olivier as a pauper, legal requirements that internment in such cases occur less than six days after death means “it often happens families are only found after inhumation.” Shocking, indeed.

-Bruce Crumley