Grieving father locked in custody battle over deceased military daughter's remains
AEDAN HELMER September 15, 2017
Betiana Mubili plunged to her death in a skydiving mishap three weeks ago, but instead of making funeral arrangements for his daughter, Viktor Mubili is locked in a custody battle over her remains, which he says are being “held hostage” in Toronto.Betiana “Betty” Mubili, a 29-year-old Canadian Forces medic, died Aug. 27 when her parachute failed to open during a solo recreational jump with Skydive Petawawa. Her death remains under investigation by OPP and the coroner’s office.
Her father was devastated by the news.
But he was not expecting a dispute when he flew from Newfoundland, where he works in the mining industry, to Toronto on Sept. 5 to identify her body.
He was contacted by his old pastor, Paul W. Martin, who was made trustee of Betty’s estate in her last will, prepared Oct. 14, 2015.
Martin told the elder Mubili that Betty’s aunt had requested the body be shipped back to her native Zambia for burial. When he arrived in Toronto, Mubili claims his daughter’s remains were already in the hands of a shipping company.
Mubili believes his daughter, who served in Afghanistan and was on her way to becoming a commissioned officer at the time of her death, would have wanted to be buried with her fellow Canadian soldiers.
“She is a Canadian citizen, she fought for Canada, she is a Canadian war veteran and to send her back to be buried in a foreign country is not right,” he said. “She would want to be buried among her comrades.”
Mubili immediately sought a court injunction “to stop the transfer of the deceased’s body to Zambia,” according to documents filed in court Sept. 7.
Martin did not respond to requests for comment. His Toronto-based lawyer Paul Trudelle said the matter will be heard at Toronto’s Superior Court on Sept. 20.
Mubili said while he is currently in the process of hiring a lawyer, “I didn’t want lawyers (involved), I didn’t want courts. But such is life.”
Betiana Mubili, a 29-year-old Petawawa woman, died after her parachute malfunctioned during a solo recreational jump. Source: Facebook
Viktor Mubili emigrated from Zambia to Canada in 2000, and arranged for his young daughter to move to Toronto in 2002. The woman’s mother, according to Mubili, never joined them in Canada and the marriage dissolved. She died on Dec. 25, 2013.
According to Mubili, his late daughter has three surviving half-sisters in Zambia, and an aunt named Wendy who is fighting to have her body returned to her homeland.
The Citizen was not able to contact any other members of Mubili’s family.
Martin became involved early in the family’s time in Canada, when the deeply religious father and daughter were taken in by the pastor’s Toronto church.
Mubili said he moved to Saskatchewan for work, and his daughter began her pursuit of a military career following high school in 2006.
“I tried to talk her into leaving the church but she decided to stay there,” he said.
He moved again, this time to the U.S., around the time his daughter was set to deploy to Afghanistan.
According to Mubili, the Canadian Forces required an emergency contact to reside in Canada, and without any other living relatives in Canada, the family decided to name their pastor, Martin.
Mubili never changed the paperwork upon the completion of his daughter’s tour.
“She was back in peaceful Canada,” he said. “I didn’t expect her to die at the time she died.”
After his daughter’s death, Mubili spoke with Martin, but said the conversation became strained at the mention of Betty’s burial arrangements.
“At first he was quite respectful. I don’t know who he spoke with, but he became very uncooperative,” said Mubili.
Mubili sent Martin an offer to settle out of court Sept. 9, requesting the burial be held in Toronto within one week, that arrangements be made for her aunt Wendy to attend the service, and that Martin surrender power of attorney, along with documents including Betty’s pre-deployment will, her last will from 2015 and her wish list. Mubili said he was told his daughter had expressed her own wishes to be buried in Zambia, but said he has seen no documentation to support that claim.
The settlement offer expired Monday, and Mubili said he was not contacted by Martin, but rather by the Toronto court where expedited proceedings are set to commence Wednesday.
Mubili believes his daughter should be buried in Canada for several reasons aside from her military service.
She was made a Canadian citizen in 2004, and under Zambian law, would have had to apply for dual citizenship, which she never did.
“Sending her remains to Zambia is like burying a Canadian citizen in a foreign country,” Mubili said.
Mubili also wants to ensure a full investigation into his daughter’s death is completed. Adding to his grief, he says he was never contacted by anyone from Skydive Petawawa. The company has not responded to the Citizen’s requests for comment.
OPP Const. Shawn Peever said the investigation into Betty’s death remains ongoing in conjunction with the coroner’s office.
“It is too premature to say criminal charges won’t be laid,” he said.
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