Dispute over where to bury late PNG league star

5:46 pm on 16 January 2018

A dispute has emerged between the families of the deceased Papua New Guinea rugby league star Kato Ottio over where to bury him.

The 23-year-old died in a Port Moresby hospital last week after collapsing at a training session.

Kato Ottio, (right), tackles of England's Kallum Watkins during the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final in November

Kato Ottio, (right), tackles of England's Kallum Watkins during the Rugby League World Cup quarter-final in November Photo: AFP or licensors

Ottio's shock death caused widespread grief in PNG, with a large public funeral service held last Friday in the capital.

His body rests in a funeral home where police yesterday intervened when Ottio's father's family, who are from Bougainville, tried to claim the body over his mother's family, who are from Tatana in the capital.

Our reporter, Melvin Levongo, said in PNG, when a person of mixed parentage dies, traditionally their body is buried in the father's area.

"However in Kato's case, he spent most of his time at Tatana. They see him as one of their own. He was like a pride and a role model to them, so for the father's people to come and say look, we are from the father's side, so let's get the body and go to the father's village, you know, the people at Tatana won't allow that. That's where the dispute is."

Melvin Levongo said negotiations were underway between the two families to settle on where Kato Ottio's burial should be.

But he said that a trust fund established by the Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League to help the late league player's mother appeared to be secure.

"During his time (as a development player) at Canberra (Raiders Club) and during interviews, the late Kato mentioned that his dream and goal was to buy his mother a house.

"Friends and fans who want to donate, can donate to that trust account so that they can be able to at least build her a house or buy a house for his mother."

Meanwhile, a statement about results from a post mortem into Ottio's death, which was requested by his family and the PNGRFL, is due to be released this week.

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