Family fight over victim’s remains after alleged murder
THE body of a 15-year-old boy allegedly stabbed to death at the Bagot Community in May remains in limbo amid a dispute between his biological mother and the woman who raised him about his rightful burial place.
Another teenage boy was charged with murder after the alleged stabbing on May 19 and remains before the courts but the question of where the dead boy should be laid to rest remains the subject of intense dispute.
The competing claims were set out in a judgment handed down in the Supreme Court last month, which reveals the two women, who are "sister(s) under Aboriginal law", each applied for orders allowing them to take possession of the boy's remains.
The court heard Darwin woman Rosemary Baird was the boy's primary carer from the age of five months and was listed as his next of kin but Tiwi Islander Constance Puruntatameri was his biological mother.
The court heard the boy had stayed with Ms Puruntatameri in Darwin for about five months after his birth before she went back to her homeland on Melville Island.
It was there Ms Puruntatameri ran into personal difficulties, started drinking and as a result asked Ms Baird to look after her son back in Darwin because she was unable to do so.
In 2019, the boy "had fallen in with a youth gang" in Palmerston and again spent a few months on Melville Island, where his mother's family said he intended to finish school at Tiwi College.
Ms Baird disputed the family's version of events and Justice Barr found while it was "impossible" to say where the truth lay, it was clear he was never enrolled at Tiwi College and Ms Puruntatameri had no significant role in his care.
"He clearly made his own choice to return to live with Rosemary," he said.
"She was the person who supported him in significant times of his life, in good and bad times, even when he was in trouble with police. She was the person he wanted to speak to when he found himself in trouble in the last hours of his life."
Justice Barr said while turning the remains over to Ms Baird "would cause cultural offence as well as personal disappointment" to Ms Puruntatameri, Ms Baird had contended his mother "cannot claim him in death when she did not want to claim him in life".
"There is no one in the Puruntatameri family that embraced him and wanted to welcome him into their life," she told the court.
"He has belonged to the Hunter and Baird family all his life - it is right that we have the right to bury him."
Justice Barr ruled in favour of Ms Baird but it is understood that decision will likely be appealed before the boy's body is released.
Originally published as Family at odds over victim's remains in alleged Bagot stabbing murder