Homeless in life, British man is now neglected in death

After living on Mumbai streets for 15 years, he was found by cops and sent for treatment; he died within a fortnight but his body is yet to be laid to rest more than 3 months later

When the police found an ailing and homeless 60-year-old British national in Mumbai in August, perhaps he had hoped that his fortune would improve after 15 years of living on the streets. However, things only took a turn for the worse, as he died a fortnight later, and is yet to be given the dignity of a burial more than three months later.

While the state government requires all bodies to be disposed of within 15 days, Javed Libenhas’ body has remained unclaimed at the JJ mortuary for 104 days, as the police and the British embassy have failed to track down any kin to claim the body.

Representational pic

When the Gamdevi Police found Javed Libenhas a British national of Indian origin near August Kranti Maidan on August 14, he was nearly unconscious. All he could tell the police was that he was British, which the cops soon confirmed by going through his documents. They later learned that he had come to India in 1999, and had been living on the streets since then.

However, the cops never found out the reason behind his visit to India and his failure to return to the UK. Weak from several cuts and ailments, Libenhas was admitted to Asha Daan, a home for the destitute in Byculla, where he was to be treated until he was fit enough for further enquiry. However, his condition worsened at the end of a fortnight.

“He had several minor injuries all around his body. He was suffering from loose motions and stomach swelling. Due to spending years on the streets, he couldn’t even digest the food that we offered,” said Sister Juditha, from Asha Daan.

Apart from that, he had several ailments that needed to be diagnosed so we decided to send him to JJ hospital on August 29, since his health seemed particularly vulnerable on that day,”.

At JJ hospital, however, Libenhas was declared dead on arrival, and his body was sent to the post-mortem centre, where it has remained for the following three-and-a-half months.

Official speak
When mid-day asked PSI Sikandar Vardhan of Gamdevi police station why it was taking the authorities so long to lay Libenhas to rest, he said, “First of all, it is an international matter and we cannot dispose of his body without the embassy’s consent. We have sent several notifications to the British Embassy and are waiting for their response.”

Vardhan added that the search for the deceased’s relatives would take time, since they had only his name to go on. Despite attempts to contact Oliver Ferrari, regional operational manager (western India), British Embassy, he remained unavailable to comment on the matter.

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