Two German women were seized by police for trying to check in a dead man on a weekend flight from Liverpool, U.K. to Berlin.
They now face possible charges for "failing to give notification of death," according to U.K. police, who are investigating whether the women were conspiring to avoid high repatriation costs with an unusual tactic.
As 91-year-old Curt Willi Jarant appeared to slump in his wheelchair, an airport worker, who helped lift Jarant's body out of a cab and into a wheelchair, immediately suspected that he was in fact dead. Andrew Millea told the BBC that Jarant's body was "ice cold," adding, "I knew straight away that the man was dead, but they reassured me that he 'always sleeps like that.'"
Millea then informed the airport's security staff of his suspicions, while the passengers waited in the check-in line. An examination revealed that Jarant was actually dead.
Gitta Jarant and Anke Anusic, Jarant's wife and stepdaughter, told the BBC that they had no knowledge of the former pilot's death when they arrived at the airport. "We had checked his temperature and checked his well-being," Anusic said, "he was warm and wasn't in an emergency situation."
She said Jarant, who battled Alzheimer's, was wearing sunglasses to hide an unsightly eye and avoid the stares of fellow passengers.
The two women, who live in Manchester, U.K., have been released on bail until June 1, 2010, a Greater Manchester police spokesperson told ABC News. "The coroner has been informed and police are continuing with their inquiries."
A post-mortem examination is expected to be performed this week, to determine the time of death and whether Gitta Jarant, 66, and Anusic, 41, were trying to hoodwink authorities and avoid repatriation costs by moving the body back to Berlin.
Repatriation can be expensive and cumbersome, involving documentation, embalming the body, paying for coffins and air freight charges.
But Anusic denied any such plan, telling the BBC, "A dead person cannot be carried to Germany. There are too many people checking, security. How can you bring a dead person to Germany?"
"He was alive, he was not dead, he was pale but he was not dead. He was like this for months, he behaved like this for months," she said.
Remembering her late husband, Gitta Jarant told the BBC he was "the best man of the world," adding, "My Willi is my god."
She told the Daily Mail that she planned to "contact the German embassy to complain. Willi was a fantastic man and I loved him very much. This is all crazy. I would never do such a thing."