Funeral Industry News

Funeral Director Stole Hearse Keys From Rival Company

August 27, 2009

Funeral Director Stole Hearse Keys From Rival Company

image When Patricia Thorburn died her family arranged to fulfil her wish of travelling to the cemetery in a vintage burgundy Rolls-Royce. But their carefully laid plans were nearly scuppered when a rival funeral director stole the keys from the Rolls-Royce Phantom 6 as it was parked outside the Salvation Army citadel in Middlesbrough.

The 65-year-old’s mourners were astonished when they realised the keys had been taken and the hearse could not be moved for the funeral service last September.

Yesterday the funeral director in question, David Wood, 48, from Middlesbrough, admitted theft when he appeared before the town’s crown court.

The court heard that the undertakers hired by the family offered a replacement car to carry Thorburn, but the family refused as she had been adamant that she wanted to travel her final journey in a Rolls-Royce. Staff had to strip out the dashboard of the vintage car and hot-wire it to move the cortege from the citadel to the Acklam cemetery.

Irene Jessop, funeral director with Joel D Kerr funeral service, said at the time: “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.”

The court heard the theft happened after Wood accused the other funeral directors of poaching his business, a claim strongly refuted by staff at Joel D Kerr.

The case was adjourned until next month by Judge Les Spittle, so a background pre-sentence report can be prepared.

“The victim here is not going to bear the cost of your activity,” the judge told Wood. “You can anticipate, certainly, some financial cost to you.”

The court heard that Thorburn had seen the car on display at the Cleveland Show, and told the funeral director: “When my time comes, I want one of those.”

One family member said after the theft: “I can’t understand what type of person would steal the keys to a hearse on the way to a burial. It is sickening.”