In Brief

Why funeral urns are washing up on Dutch beaches

Mystery as human ashes from Germany land up 500 miles away

The discovery of three funeral urns full of human ashes on beaches in the Netherlands has prompted a public apology by a Dutch shipping company.

The containers all washed up separately on shores in the neighbouring western coastal towns Katwijk and Noordwijk over the past week, sparking “fevered speculation about how they got there”, reports The Guardian.

The metal urn lids were stamped with the dates of birth, death and cremation of the deceased, and marked “for collection” from a crematorium in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, northern Germany – nearly 500 miles away, says German newspaper Deutsche Welle.

All three were found by local people, including 14-year-old Maarten van Duijn and his father. The schoolboy told reporters: “We checked it out, because we thought it could have been a disguise for something else, drugs for example.” 

The discovery that the urns really did hold human ashes triggered a statement from the Stralsund public prosecutor’s office, which covers the Greifswald area, saying that a formal investigation might be launched.

However, shipping firm Trip Scheepvaart yesterday admitted responsibility for the incident, telling Germany’s DPA news agency that the urns had “slipped from an employee’s hands over the railing” of one of its vessels ahead of a planned mass marine funeral.

“The incident is very unpleasant for us,” said company spokesperson Silvia Roos, who added that the firm was considering how to apologise to the relatives of the deceased.

Roos added that the contents of two of the three urns have now been scattered at sea, with plans to do the same with the third shortly.

Germany has “some of the strictest rules in Europe for the disposal of human ashes”, including burials at sea, prompting “initial confusion about how the urns made their way to the Netherlands”, reports the BBC.

In most German states it is illegal to keep, bury or scatter human ashes outside of a cemetery, and ashes intended for sea burials must be put in an urn that is biodegradable - which the metal ones found in the Netherlands do not appear to have been. 

Recommended

Pope Benedict ‘turned blind eye’ to child sex abuse
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - DECEMBER 25:Pope Benedict XVI waves to the faithfuls as he delivers his Christmas Day message 'urbi et orbi' blessing (to the city and to the world) from the central b
Getting to grips with . . .

Pope Benedict ‘turned blind eye’ to child sex abuse

‘Ugly’ Paris to get makeover in viral campaign victory
Paris pictured from above at dusk
Stranger than fiction

‘Ugly’ Paris to get makeover in viral campaign victory

Ashling Murphy: the calls for change to protect women in Ireland
Vigils have taken place across the Republic of Ireland in memory of Ashling Murphy
In Depth

Ashling Murphy: the calls for change to protect women in Ireland

Will Russia try to invade Ukraine in 2022?
Ukrainian troops from the Donbass Battalion
Getting to grips with . . .

Will Russia try to invade Ukraine in 2022?

Popular articles

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022
Hidden Assets BBC
In Depth

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all won 20 grand slam singles titles
Profile

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams

The Week Footer Banner