A British man is speaking out about nearly having his deceased husband’s ashes taken away from him by security officers at a Hong Kong airport earlier this year.
Marco Bulmer-Rizzi’s husband, David, died after falling down a staircase while the couple was on their honeymoon in Australia in January. Because Australia doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, David’s death certificate listed him as “never married.” Marco was also refused an official copy of the death certificate.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Marco explains that as he was returning home with his husband’s remains when an airport security officer in Hong Kong noticed the ashes going through the X-ray scanner.
“I was taken to one side and she said, ‘What’s in this box?’” he said. “She wanted to open the box. And I said, ‘These are human remains. It’s my husband. My husband died while we were in Australia.’”
The officer continued to grill Marco.
“She said, ‘Who did you say died?’. I said, ‘My husband. And this is his passport.’ And she said, ‘No. I’m gonna take this [the ashes] away.’”
Without the official death certificate stating he was the next of kin, there was little Marco could do to stop David’s ashes from being confiscated. He watched in horror as the officer tried grabbing the box.
“I put my hand down [on the box] and said, ‘No, you can’t! I need to see your supervisor,’” he explains. “I felt like I was losing him again. All I wanted was to be able to travel with David’s ashes on me so he wouldn’t have to travel back by himself.”
When the supervisor arrived, she, too, was unsympathetic.
“Again I was asked who the remains were and I said, ‘My husband, David.’ At that point I wanted the world to know that it was my husband. And she asked me, ‘What do you mean your husband?’”
Eventually, Marco was able to convince the supervisor to let him bring David’s ashes back to England, but the incident left him scarred. He says none of this would have happened if he had simply been listed as next of kin on the death certificate.
“They should have given me a next-of-kin letter, just something so that if I had issues with the hospital, in terms of making final decisions, I could have just said, ‘I’m David’s next of kin and this letter is to confirm that.’”