A suburban Munich woman was recently found to have been sleeping in the same bed as her elderly mother's mummified body.
The older woman, as it turns out, died five and a half years ago, which seems like a rather long time to hide a corpse without anyone becoming suspicious. Eventually, building management contacted social services, and the body was discovered. The cause of death was chalked up to natural causes.
When the police found the dead woman she was covered to the neck with a blanket. Because of the blanket, flies couldn't get at her body, explained Thomas Althaus, deputy head of death investigations with the criminal police. "That certainly helped to prevent putrefaction," he said.
According to Matthias Graw, head of forensics, mummification happens — among other circumstances — when a body dries out. Bacteria can't function properly if there are no body fluids. Ideal conditions are dry, warm, moving air. Police confirmed that the daughter had kept her mother's apartment impeccably clean and had aired it sufficiently. Apparently the mummification didn't engender smells that would have alerted neighbors.
The 55-year-old daughter has a history of mental illness, and is being treated in a psychiatric hospital while facing possible charges for "violation of burial laws."
And this story, while tragic, isn't unique. In July, a woman in Brooklyn was found to have been cohabiting with her long-dead mother's skeletal remains for over a year. In that case, the daughter was alleged to be "putting [the body] at the dinner table for a dining companion and cuddling next to it at night as she slept."