The driver had just loaded the coffins into the van and had gone to wash his hands before driving from the German capital to the crematorium in Meissen, Saxony, a company spokesman said. But when he came back to the van, it was gone.
“The driver did everything right,” the spokesman told Die Welt newspaper, adding that he had even locked the van for the few minutes that he was away.
A spokesman for the Meissen town authorities confirmed that the bodies had been expected. Bodies are often taken there for cremation because it is particularly cheap, the paper said.
Now 12 families face an uncertain wait for the ashes of their loved-ones, while police try to track down the vehicle.
Several vans were stolen on that Sunday night. One has already been found in the western Polish city of Poznań – but it was not the one with the bodies.
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“The perpetrators were probably not intending to steal 12 bodies,” said Ingo Kechichian, spokesman for the Frankfurt am Oder state prosecutor.