Funeral home raided following accusations it switched grandmother into $70 pine box

Detectives have raided a Central Queensland funeral home over allegations it switched a grandmother's $1700 silky oak coffin for a cheap pine box just before her cremation.

Police investigate Qld coffin swap (clone 1515640537)

Police investigate Qld coffin swap (clone 1515640537)

Janice Cecilia Valigura, 74, was farewelled in Rockhampton on Monday, after suffering a stroke on New Year's Eve.

But immediately following her funeral, her family say she was removed from her casket, wrapped in plastic and placed in a cheap pine box prior to her cremation.

Rockhampton Detectives have raided Hart’s Family funerals over allegations it switched a woman’s coffin. Source: 7 News

They told the Rockhampton Bulletin the priest blessed Mrs Valigura's coffin before it was carried out by her grandchildren and taken to the Rockhampton crematorium.

But the family was made to wait an hour before the casket arrived at the crematorium.

Mrs Valigura's niece Kerry Rothery said when the coffin finally arrived, a family friend spotted the pine box and asked her about the odd choice, believing the family would have selected a more fitting casket to farewell the woman.

Ms Rothery inspected the coffin and was devastated about what she says she found after seeing her aunt's body wrapped in plastic in the pine box.

Detectives investigate the family's claims at the business on Thursday. Source: 7 News

She also told The Bulletin the personal letters written by her grand­children and placed on her heart had been tossed inside.

Queensland Police confirmed they are investigating the incident as a fraudulent matter.

"It's been reported as a fraud and that's what's being investigated at this stage," Detective Sergeant Craig Strohfeldt told reporters on Thursday.

"It's only been alleged at this stage but if the investigations do prove that an offence has been committed then it is a shocking thing."

The Rockhampton funeral home is being accused of switching a grandmother's $1700 coffin with a cheap pine box between the funeral and the cremation. Source: Harts Family Funerals

He told reporters the case was “quite unusual”.

"In my experience, I have never received a complaint of this nature."

Sgt Strohfeldt added that police were taking the matter seriously and a lot of resources were being put into the investigation.

He said the penalty for fraudulent activity was anything from a fine to a prison term.

The funeral home, Harts Family Funerals, declined to comment on the matter, with owner Tony Hart telling AAP only that there were "two families involved in the story". The business has not responded to Yahoo7's request for an interview.

Harts promises 'to act with dignity and respect' according to its website. Source: Harts Family Funerals

Queensland Funeral Directors Association president Anton Brown said changing coffins was not common practice in the funeral industry.

"When people choose a funeral director they put a lot of trust in that person," Mr Brown told ABC radio.

"This person who has [allegedly] done this to the family has broken their trust.

"It's like buying a Mercedes and getting a Toyota Corolla."

Ms Valigura's son Mick Valigura said the family was shocked by what had happened.

"I just don't want this to happen to anyone else," he told The Morning Bulletin.

On the funeral home's website, Mr Hart promises to provide bereaved families with "personal and exceptional care" and claims the company holds "old fashioned values".

"We pride ourselves on offering families a funeral that is affordable, professional, modern in standards and of the highest integrity," he says.

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