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Battle for custody of Kennedy body

As someone who lived at the edge of the spotlight that shines on the Kennedys, Mary Richardson Kennedy had been there long enough to become a partner in their rituals of grief - she was there when the clan buried Michael Kennedy, killed in a New Year's Eve skiing accident in 1997, and John F. Kennedy Jr, who died in a plane crash in 1999.

And now, the gathering will be for her, the estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr, who hanged herself on Wednesday at the family's 10-acre estate in a New York City suburb.

However, the two sides of her family faced off in court over custody of her body as they finalised plans for separate memorial services.

One of Mary Kennedy's brothers, Thomas Richardson, filed a legal motion at a court in White Plains listing Robert Kennedy as a defendant.

Details of the legal dispute were sealed by a judge, but it came as the Kennedy and Richardson families were finalising arrangements for separate memorial services for the 52-year-old architect and environmentalist.

Mary and Robert Kennedy had been going through a lengthy, contested divorce. Robert Kennedy declined to speak about the matter after emerging from a closed court session in White Plains, saying only: "It's all done." Lawyers for Mary Kennedy's siblings also declined to comment or did not return phone calls.

After the legal proceedings concluded, the medical examiner's office in Westchester County received an order instructing them to release the body to a funeral home in Bedford, according to a county spokeswoman.

Mourners - so many that some had to park on nearby side streets - converged on the brick mansion in suburban Bedford, New York, for a wake. Floral deliveries and vans full of people arrived as two police cars were stationed at end of the long driveway, keeping reporters at a distance.

Funeral services were also planned for this morning at St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Bedford, with burial to follow near the Kennedy's seaside compound in Hyannisport, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Mary Kennedy's siblings announced through their lawyer, Kerry Lawrence, that they were planning a memorial service in Manhattan, though they did not say when.

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