New Zealand Independent Newspapers

28 August 2001

CLOSE WATCH: Reverend Hariata Tahana (C) with funeral director Peter Giddons (R) watch a digger start the exhumation of Zyon Pauling and his daughter Tori today.

Baby lifted from grave

New Zealand Independent Newspapers

The remains of Zyon Pauling and his baby daughter Tori who were killed in a car accident in 1995 were exhumed at a Masterton cemetery today - ending a six-year legal battle.

Tori's mother, Maria Williams, survived the accident but subsequently protested the decision to bury the 27-day-old girl in her father's arms and the name Victoria on the headstone rather than Tori.

Early today, Mr Pauling's family and friends stood silently as contractors drove a digger into the Riverside Cemetery to start the disinternment.

Just minutes earlier up to 100 people gathered around the graves of Mr Pauling, his daughter and Kevin Arnold, who is buried next to the Paulings, while Reverend Hariata Tahana blessed the graves and contractors carrying out the exhumation.

After the blessing those gathered walked silently past the graves and over to a stone wall to watch.

A lone protestor stood defiantly with his armed crossed, refusing to move.

He was eventually arrested and charged with breaching the peace.

Other people took exception to council contractors carrying out the job, yelling abuse at the three men as they prepared the site for the digger.

A wire cage covered with a blue tarpaulin was put around Mr Arnold's grave after his family protested that the exhumation would disrupt his site.

A digger was then used to remove the surface dirt of Mr Pauling's grave and a hole dug at the end of the gravesite.

A marquee was then put over the site and funeral directors started the job of digging by shovel to find the coffin and remains.

Mr Pauling's mother Jaquy said she was pleased the exhumation had happened without trouble despite initially vowing to disrupt the event.

After many sleepless nights, the family had decided to call for calm.

They have yet to decide whether Mr Pauling's remains will be cremated or buried elsewhere.

Mrs Pauling said the headstone would remain where it was despite being vandalised several times in the past six years.

Mr Pauling and his 27 day-old daughter were killed in 1995 in a car accident in Waipawa.

The exhumation ends Ms Williams's fight to have her daughter's remains returned to her for cremation.

The battle, which went all the way to the Court of Appeal, started four months after the deaths when Ms Williams and the Paulings disagreed about whether she was told of the original burial arrangements and agreed to them.

The Paulings obtained an injunction to stop the exhumation pending a challenge to the granting of the licence.

Mr Pauling's family gave up the legal battle to stop the exhumation earlier this year.

The fight cost the family their house and business after they spent more than $100,000 on legal fees.