Hearse key thief spared prison

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

David Wood, an undertaker from Middlesbrough, England, received a six month suspended prison sentence yesterday for stealing the keys of a competitor's hearse.

A Rolls-Royce Phantom VI
Image: Lars-Göran Lindgren.

Wood stole the keys of the Rolls-Royce Phantom VI hearse on 23 September 2008, outside Middlesbrough's Salvation Army citadel, as people gathered for the funeral of Patricia Thorburn.

The hearse had to be hot-wired to reach the crematorium, which caused mourners a delay of nearly an hour and large repair costs.

Wood was under the impression Joel D. Kerr, the undertaker whose keys were stolen, had poached some of his business. He told his probation officer that his actions were "stupid, pathetic and childish".

The incident was recorded on CCTV, and Wood pleaded guilty to theft. The judge, Recorder James Goss QC, told Wood that he "treated the death in this case and the funeral that was taking place with disrespect ... this is not really an offence of theft but an offence against public decency."

Wood's barrister, Peter Makepeace, apologised on behalf of his client and pointed out that since the case was reported, Wood's business has suffered. Wood himself did not comment.

In addition to his sentence, suspended for a year, Wood was ordered to pay £250 costs. A compensation hearing will occur at a later date. The keys, which Wood lost in his flight, have yet to be found.