Grieving parents locked in legal fight over boys’ bodies
The heartbroken mother of two young boys tragically killed in a horror crash in Wellington wants their bodies buried side-by-side so they can remain together and fears their ashes will be lost or stolen if they are cremated, a court has heard.
Shane, 7, and Sheldon Shorey, 6 were mowed down by an allegedly unlicensed driver on January 5.
Six weeks on from the tragedy, the boys parents Shayleen Frail and Joseph Shorey have taken a dispute about how to lay their children to rest to the Supreme Court.
During a Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday, Ms Frail's barrister Brendan Jones said the boys spent most of their lives in Wellington and their mother did not want them to be separated after their deaths.
The court was told Ms Frail feared the boys remains could be lost of stolen if they were cremated and she wanted them buried side-by-side in a coffin together or on top of each other so they could stay connected.
Mr Jones said in an affidavit, Wellington Aboriginal Elder Aunty Glenda Joyce Bell said locally it was not common for Aboriginal people to be cremated.
"She tells your honour she has never attended a funeral service where a body was cremated … it is preferred they are buried and not cremated," Mr Jones said.
"The first defendant says he has a desire for cremation … it stems from a desire for both parties to have some parts of the bodies.
"It's not a religious consideration that informs that position, it's informed by what he feels necessary to manage his grief. Because of her beliefs, it is of greater significance a burial occurs."
Mr Jones said the Shorey boys would have wanted to be buried in line with Aboriginal and Wellington community traditions.
The court heard for Ms Frail and many Aboriginal people, it was important to have their families "bodies returned to mother Earth" and be guided by elders through to an afterlife in a location that allowed for a close relationship to be maintained.
"It's not just a place to mourn and grieve, it's a place to connect to and feel close to," Mr Jones said.
"That belief system is not something (Mr Shorey) prescribes to and believes in."
Mr Shorey's barrister Mark Anderson told the court Shane and Sheldon did not just have ties to Wellington, with Dubbo their place of birth, while they also lived in Mudgee and Emerald.
"Mr Shorey has had care of the children since January 2020," Mr Anderson said.
The court heard after their parents separated in 2016, Shane and Sheldon lived with Ms Frail's mother and stepfather in Wellington for three and a half years, while Mr Shorey worked away and was unable to care for them full-time
Mr Anderson said although Mr Shorey was not Aboriginal, he was raised by Aboriginal families and said cremations were regularly conducted in communities like Brewarinna.
"Burying the ashes, it would seem, is equivalent to burying a coffin," he said.
"Prior to colonisation Aboriginal communities practised cremation.
"The arrangements which are proposed by Mr Shorey will provide a more practical way in which both parents might be able to grieve the tragic loss of these young children in a culturally accepted way."
As the hearing concluded, Mr Jones told Justice John Sackar the case was not about who was the better parent.
Justice Sackar reserved his judgment and said he would deliver it before the middle of next week.
Wellington man Jacob Donn, 25, was arrested on the night the boys died and charged with dangerous driving causing death and various other offences.
He has been refused bail and entered no pleas, with the case to return to court next month.
Ms Frail and another person injured in the crash are expected to make full recoveries.
A third injured person has had part of their leg amputated and remains in hospital.
Originally published as Grieving parents locked in bitter legal fight over boys' bodies