Authorities in Sicily assumed that a holidaymaker killed in a road accident was an illegal African immigrant due to the dark colour of his skin and buried him without contacting his family, it has emerged.
The parents of the 23-year-old Bulgarian tourist, Stoyan Zafirova, only learnt their son had been run over by a car a week after the accident occurred on a main road near the seaside town of Pozzallo on 7 June, local press reports said.
Even more distressing, they were then told that Mr Zafirova, who lived with his family in Malta, had already been buried in Sicily without their permission, after police assumed he was a "homeless African immigrant", due to the "dark colour of his skin" and because he didn't have any identification documents with him.
Newspapers in the Ragusa province of Sicily said Mr Zafirova, a computer programmer, was hit by a 50-year-old man from Pozzallo in a Mercedes. Despite efforts to save him, Mr Stoyan died at the scene.
As the family set about making funeral arrangements, the Sicilian authorities said they were unable to release his body until a probe into the accident was complete, and that travelling to the island was "pointless", according to thelocal.it website.
Finally, six weeks later, the Zafirova family received a letter saying their son's body was ready to be released.
But as their undertaker in Malta made plans to bring the body home, the family was shocked to learn that Mr Stoyan had been buried 12 days earlier in a cemetery in Pozzallo.
"He was buried without our permission, they didn't inform us of anything," the dead man's mother, Zaharinka Zafirova, told thelocal.it.
She had spoken to her son three days before he died. "He said everything was fine, he was doing very well," she said.
"He was staying in an apartment there, so the reports about him being homeless are untrue; he even offered to send money home to us."