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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Undertaker Admits Stealing Hearse Keys of Competitor During Funeral

Callous thief stole keys from hearse

May 12 2009

Mark Welford

Evening Gazette

A CALLOUS thief has admitted targeting a funeral by taking the keys from the hearse of a rival undertaker.

David Leslie Wood

David Leslie Wood, 48, of Bridge Court, Middlesbrough admitted theft at Teesside Crown Court.

As previously reported in the Evening Gazette, the vintage Rolls Royce Phantom 6 funeral car containing the body of Patricia Thorburn was outside the Salvation Army Citadel in Trimdon Avenue, Middlesbrough, after the funeral service on Tuesday September 23 when the heartless thief struck.

Shocked mourners were left in disbelief as the dignity of the 65-year-old’s final journey to Acklam Cemetery was destroyed. The dashboard of the car, which belonged to Joel D Kerr had to be stripped out and the hearse “hot wired”. It is believed the theft, which caused major disruption and a one hour delay in the funeral plans, was carried out by Wood after he accused Mr Kerr of taking business - something Mr Kerr denied.

Wood was expected to go on trial yesterday but pleaded guilty.

Speaking after yesterday’s hearing Irene Jessop, funeral director with Joel D Kerr funeral service in Marton Road, Middlesbrough, said: “We are very relieved and pleased that Mr Wood pleaded guilty for the awful crime he committed.”

The incident happened at around 2pm in the citadel car park as the family were preparing to go to the cemetery for the funeral.

Speaking at the time Ms Jessop, said: “The level of disrespect is unbelievable, dreadful.

“The cars were left unattended for only five to 10 minutes at the most. We had got the deceased and family members out of the citadel and were ready to leave when the hearse driver said the keys had gone. I have been a funeral director for 16 years and have never experienced such disrespect.”

One shocked family member who asked not to be named said at the time: “I can’t understand what type of person would steal the keys to a hearse on the way to a burial. It is sickening.”

Prosecutor Jolyon Perks said Wood last appeared in court in 1996 but had gone 20 years without offending.

He said businessman Joel D Kerr had to pay £250 for a replacement secondhand lock ignition but the repair to the trim and the cost of matching the locks on the vehicle had not yet been itemised.

Judge Les Spittle adjourned the case for a background and pre-sentence report and Wood will appear in court again in around three weeks time.

He told Wood that he could anticipate some “financial costs by way of compensation” to Mr Kerr and added that he would like to involve the probation officer to find an appropriate community order.

The judge added: “The victim here is not going to bear the cost of your activity.”

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