Monday, May 19, 2008

HISTORY: Celebrity Body Snatching: Charlie Chaplin's Stolen Body Found...

"The coffin containing the body of Charlie Chaplin - missing since his grave was robbed 11 weeks ago - has been found. It was dug up from a field about a mile away from the Chaplin home in Corsier near Lausanne, Switzerland. The legendary comedian died on Christmas Day last year, aged 88. He was buried two days later in the village of Corsier in the hills above Lake Geneva.

"Charlie would have thought it ridiculous."
-Lady Oona Chaplin

Swiss police have arrested two men - a Pole aged 24 and a Bulgarian aged 38 - and say they have confessed to stealing the coffin and reburying it. Names of the accused have not been released, but police say they are both motor mechanics. They were traced after police kept a watch on 200 phone kiosks and tapped the Chaplins' phone after the family received ransom demands of £400,000 for return of the body after it went missing in March. Sir Charles' 51-year-old widow, Lady Oona Chaplin, refused to pay up saying: "Charlie would have thought it ridiculous." In further calls the kidnappers made threats to harm her two youngest children.

The family kept silent about the ransom demands and various rumours circulated about the missing coffin. One Hollywood report suggested it had been dug up because Sir Charles was a Jew buried in a gentile cemetery. Lady Chaplin, daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill inherited about £12m after the death of her husband. The couple and their eight children have been living in Lausanne since 1952. A spokesman for the Chaplins said: "The family is very happy and relieved that this ordeal is over." Superintendent Gabriel Cettou, the head of the Geneva police, said the two men would be charged with attempted extortion and disturbing the peace of the dead.

-BBC News (On This Day, 5.17.1978. Image: Charlie Chaplin's Exhumed Coffin, 1978).

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