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A devoutly religious woman has failed to stop an autopsy of her mother's body, which was found in a southern Tasmanian river earlier this week.
The body of Stella Joan Fraser, 72, was found on June 8 in the Derwent Valley's River Ouse.
She had been reported missing to police the previous day.
Her daughter, Keturah Matepi Triffitt, submitted an application to Tasmania's Supreme Court in Hobart to stop a post-mortem of her mother's body on religious grounds.
"I just leave this in God's hands. Everyone knows what I felt in my heart," she said.
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Under Tasmania's Coroners Act, 1995, if the coroner decides an autopsy is necessary, the senior next of kin can apply in the Supreme Court for the autopsy not to be performed.
Mrs Triffitt told the Supreme Court that she and her mother were both devout Christians and believed in the sanctity of the human body, and that it should not be interfered with after death.
"She used to say she did not agree with autopsies," Mrs Triffitt said.
"I do believe in the rapture. I know God can resurrect from ashes but for my psychological peace, knowing mum is left the way she is … her body is still precious," she said.
Missed church service raises concern
Mrs Fraser was last seen having dinner at the Lachlan Hotel in Ouse four days before her body was found.
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She had been living alone in the town since 2017.
Her daughter told the court she believed her mother had fallen while walking home and ended up in the reeds of the river, unable to get out.
Mrs Triffitt said her mother was meant to visit on Saturday, the day after she was last seen, but her mother was not at home when Mrs Triffitt's husband went to pick her up.
She also did not attend church on the Sunday, missing her usual routine.
On the Monday night, the family reported her as missing.
State forensic [athologist Doctor Donald Ritchie told the court that while he thought Mrs Triffitt's belief about how her mother died was likely the case, it was important to rule out foul play.
"It breaks my heart to be here saying the State needs to do an autopsy on your mother when you don't want that to happen," he said.
He said the autopsy was necessary to determine what had occurred, and more specifically what didn't.
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"(It's) important for the State to know what happened to your mother because she was vulnerable and (because of) her dementia," he said.
Before the decision was handed down, Mrs Triffitt told the court: "If it's God's desire that will happen, I trust the Lord with it … I do pray things go the right way," she said.
Autopsy deemed necessary
In the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Alan Blow said he had weighed up deeply held religious beliefs with a number of arguments advanced by the State's crown counsel.
"Mrs Triffitt believes the body is precious to God and should not be cut up … [her] mother never had surgery," he said.
"Like her mother, [she] believes after death, God will make her mother's body whole or perfect again.
"On the other hand [the] State argues there is some possibility of foul play in this case and that an autopsy is reasonably necessary to see if foul play can be ruled out," he said.
Chief Justice Blow said while foul play was highly unlikely, Mrs Fraser was elderly, vulnerable and in a public place.
He said not performing an autopsy could result in the risk of an offender re-offending.
"[It's a] very painful decision I've decided to make," he told the court.
"I'm not going to make an order there be no autopsy and I'm very sorry Mrs Triffitt, I know that's upsetting," he said.
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