JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African police opened an investigation on Tuesday into Nelson Mandela's grandson on suspicion of illegally exhuming the bodies of three of the ailing anti-apartheid hero's children, a police spokesman said.
The investigation is the latest twist in an unedifying family feud that has drawn global attention as the 94-year-old Mandela lies in a Pretoria hospital in a critical condition.
Sixteen members of the Mandela family have already won a court order forcing Mandla Mandela - officially chief of the Mandela clan - to return the bodies that he dug up two years ago from the village of Qunu, where Nelson Mandela grew up.
Mandla had the remains moved 20 km (13 miles) to his Eastern Cape village of Mvezo. He has not commented on why he moved the bodies but Mvezo is where Mandela was actually born and where many South Africans believe Mandla wants South Africa's first black president to be buried.
The three Mandela children buried in Mvezo are an infant girl who died in 1948, a boy, Thembi, who died in a car crash in 1969, and Makgatho, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 2005. In all, Mandela fathered six children from his three marriages.
"We have started our investigation and we will send the case to the senior prosecutor for a decision on whether to prosecute or not," Eastern Cape police spokesman Mzukisi Fatyela told Reuters.
Nelson Mandela has spent more than three weeks battling a lung infection, forcing South Africans to accept that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped end white-minority rule will not be around forever.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Mark Heinrich)