Some people are more devoted to their marriage than others. Usually you hear about the cases where the devotion to marriage is waning, perhaps a spouse that has lost that “loving feeling” and is looking for a way out. However this tale, is quite the opposite.
On November 19th, 2013 Belgian authorities made a bizarre finding in a Brussels apartment which made international headlines. 79-year-old “Marcel H.” from Liege, Belgium was found dead of an apparent asthma attack. The death had occurred in his bed over a year earlier, in November of 2012, and as a result the body had been badly decomposed.
That, however, wasn’t the weird part. Sadly, people die all the time. Sometimes, especially if they live alone, their bodies aren’t discovered until months or sometimes years later. The strange thing about this case, is that Marcel H. didn’t live alone. His 69-year-old wife, who had been so upset by her husband’s death, failed to notify authorities and continued living in the same house with her husband’s corpse for well over a year. She went on, as if nothing had happened, even sleeping next to the corpse until the gruesome find was discovered.
Neighbors couldn’t smell the decomposing body, and apparently neither could she. Authorities only became suspicious after the landlord claimed the couple had not paid their rent since 2012. Just imagine if she had continued paying her rent!
Philippe Boxho, pathologist at the Forensic Center of Liege said:
A body can mummify in a dry, warm environment. It takes at least a week to reach such a state. In this case the body had rotten in the bed his internal organs had melted and liquefied. This liquid would have spread and the bed would have been swarming with insects as the body rotted, this would have been a real shame. Even though the smell of human decay is quite specific , many people equate that smell to the smell of garbage and once the body has become rotten the smell does decrease significantly. This is not the first time I have made a discovery of this kind, I’ve been faced with two or three other occassions where people have continued to sleep with the corpse of their partner.
Sadly, Doctor Boxho’s assesment, about this incident not being particularly rare, is quite accurate. In November, Russian authorities discovered a mentally unstable woman that had kept her husband’s dead body for 3 years and even made her home-schooled children attempt to feed the body while she waited for its resurrection in the next room.
There was also the report of a Vietnamese man named “Le Van” who dug up his dead wife’s corpse after it had been buried, brought it home, and continued to lay in bed with it each night. He used molded clay to fill in the decaying recesses of her body and turned the corpse into a gypsum statue in the shape of a life-sized human being. He placed a dummy mask over the face and changed its clothes twice a day. When his three children found out, they were horrified, but eventually they just got used to it. He lived with the corpse like this for 10 years. After the media reported of Le Van’s story, the local government urged him to bury the remains, but he refused.
There are numerous cases like this occurring all over the world. In some cases, the motive is greed where the living residents continue to collect the deceased’s pension for years after their death. However, this particular story appears to be more about love and mental illness.
The late Marcel H. is now in the morgue and his wife is receiving “treatment” while prosecutors continue to investigate this case.