Priest 'shaken' after fake funeral with paid actors, horse-drawn hearse

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

(CP) In a startling incident at the London Oratory Roman Catholic church in South Kensington, Fr Rupert McHardy was confronted with a funeral that seemed like any other until it was revealed to be an elaborate hoax. The service, planned for a young Latvian man, turned into a scene of confusion and disbelief as the truth unfolded.

The event was scheduled for 11 a.m. on a Monday, with a setup that spared no expense: a horse-drawn hearse, two luxury vintage cars, men in top hats, a full choir and a church adorned with photos of the supposed deceased, Lauris Zaube, a 23-year-old Latvian man reported missing since New Year's Eve, Daily Mail reported. The scene was perfectly set for an elaborate farewell, even including a director filming the proceedings.

However, the narrative took a dramatic turn when McHardy, ready in his robes to deliver the sermon, was informed by the choirmaster that there was no body in the coffin. The mourners, it turned out, were paid actors. The funeral was abruptly canceled, leaving the church and the congregation in a state of shock and confusion.

The plot thickened with the involvement of a man named Clyde Zaube, who claimed to be the deceased's brother. He alleged that Lauris was found frozen in ice, a story supported by a death certificate purportedly from Russia. Yet, doubts about Clyde's identity and the actual fate of Lauris Zaube loomed large, especially when it was revealed that Lauris' body had not been found and he reportedly had no brother named Clyde.

McHardy, in comments to the press, expressed his bewilderment over the incident. He recounted how the funeral's legitimacy began to crumble on the day, with last-minute changes and revelations about the absence of a body, replaced by supposed ashes. The presence of two distinct groups in the church — the respectful actors and another group in puffer jackets and balaclavas, including the elusive Clyde — added to the surreal nature of the event.

'I was quite shaken afterwards. I felt very disturbed by it," he said.

The priest attempted to converse with Clyde, who remained unresponsive, heightening the mystery. The actors, upon being questioned, disclosed their hiring for the event, further peeling back the layers of the scam. McHardy's decision to halt the service and ask everyone to leave reflected the bizarre and unsettling nature of the day's events.

The investigation into the incident revealed Jacky Jhaj, a 38-year-old convicted pedophile, was the person who orchestrated the fake funeral, having paid a significant sum to the funeral directors, The Telegraph reported. The actors, many of whom appeared young and possibly from an acting school, were part of the charade, arriving late and dressed inappropriately for a genuine funeral.

The funeral directors, T. Cribb and Sons, received a substantial payment and a questionable cremation certificate from Russia, raising suspicions about the legitimacy of the entire event.

The police involvement and the scrutiny of the fake documents, including the Russian cremation certificate, pointed to a potential forgery and misuse of legal instruments. Legal experts suggested that the orchestrator could face charges related to the fraudulent activities.

As the investigation continues, with authorities piecing together the motives and mechanisms behind the fake funeral, the community remains vigilant, wary of the potential for such deceit to breach the sanctity of their spaces and ceremonies.

© The Christian Post