Video of a fake coffin is proof something suspicious is going on in the funeral business.Shown on A Current Affair, the vision was taken inside a Queensland funeral home and reveals a coffin with no base. “It is actually a coffin shell,” funeral director Jeff Boyle said. Mr Boyle wants to blow the whistle on the business he describes as overpriced and under-regulated. “So there is no actual coffin as such. It’s a coffin with no bottom in it," he said.
Mr Boyle, who owns three funeral homes in central Queensland, said the fake coffin top is used to cover a cheap cardboard coffin that doesn’t meet Australian standards for a cremation.Photo: Jeff Boyle said there were a number of dodgy practices in the funeral industry. (A Current Affair)
“By law a body has to be cremated in a proper sealed coffin,” he said. Two of Mr Boyle’s staff said they used to work at a company which used the cardboard coffins known as ‘Petersons’ in the business. Both said grieving families were often sold a Peterson sight unseen and had no idea what’s involved.Photo: Legally a body has to be cremated in a sealed coffin. (A Current Affair)
All they see is the glossy fake top which is later removed,” Cameron Ferguson said.“They’d be horrified to know what really happens. I used to try and talk them out of it if I could.”“Families got charged $1300 for these Petersons,” said Dan Haunslow, who also worked for another funeral home before working for Mr Boyle.When Mr Boyle learned of the Petersons, he went to a local joinery which had a template for the coffins, and bought one to demonstrate what it looks like.“It costs about $70 to buy one,” Mr Boyle said.“But they are charging the families $1300. They are clearly being ripped off.”Photo: It costs about $70 to make a 'Peterson' coffin. (A Current Affair)
The issue of coffin swapping has dogged the industry. Last year Rockhampton funeral director, Tony Hart, was accused of swapping a coffin by another funeral business.Mr Hart said it was a mistake and the person was ultimately cremated in the coffin paid for by the family. Police investigated but no charges were laid."Grieving families deserve to have confidence that they're loved ones are being treated with respect," Queensland’s Shadow Attorney-General David Janestski said."At the moment there's more regulation to cut here than what there is to operate a funeral director business, that's not good enough."In a bid to clean up the business, Mr Boyle said he had been gathering evidence to present to Police and the ACCC.Photo: Cameron Ferguson said families were often sold a cardboard coffin sight unseen. (A Current Affair)
“I want to put an end to the so-called ‘one cent’ contracts,“ he said.“In most states the government pays funeral homes to collect bodies for transportation to the morgue – for the coroner – if that’s needed."The government should pay up to $500 for that service but instead in Queensland they pay virtually nothing to some funeral homes who then try and get the grieving family’s business and charge them to transport the bodies.”Regulations stipulate funeral directors collecting bodies are not supposed to tout for business but clearly it happens.When Gold Coast man Steve Pemberton lost his father suddenly a year ago he says the funeral company who collected his body came back an hour later with flowers and one of their brochures.Photo: Dan Haunslow said families were charged $1300 for 'Peterson' coffins. (A Current Affair)
“We were very surprised to see that," Mr Pemberton said.“It was very inappropriate timing. I threw the flowers out and we went with a local company we knew of.”Funeral whistle-blowers Mr Ferguson and Mr Haunslow have produced pay sheets confirming they were paid a bonus when they managed to convert a coroner’s pick up into a funeral.“The business is a disgrace and the ones being ripped off are grieving families,” Mr Boyle said.“No-one is policing the regulations. No-one ever checks on funeral homes to make sure they are doing the right thing.”Steve Pemberton said the funeral company that collected his dad's body later brought him flowers and a brochure. (A Current Affair)
A Department of Justice and Attorney-General spokesperson said in a statement that they had conducted a competitive, two-stage process for the renewal of government undertaking contracts."The procurement process, which was overseen by an independent probity advisor, was significant, encompassing 77 local government boundaries and resulted in 122 individual offers from market," the statement read."Unfortunately, as with all competitive procurement processes, there will be disappointed applicants. All applicants, are welcome to seek feedback from DJAG about their submissions."DJAG investigates and takes all complaints about government undertakers seriously. Any substantiated breaches of these contracts or inappropriate practices are acted upon accordingly. Where action is required it is taken in accordance with the terms of the contract."Photo: Mr Pemberton said he threw the flowers out. (A Current Affair)