A funeral home worker who gambled away almost £10,000 he had tricked out of grieving families before going on the run has been jailed.
Among the victims of Steven Drinkwater’s cruel schemes were a mother whose daughter was stillborn at 37 weeks and spouses who had recently lost their partners.
Parents who had lost a child were also targeted by Drinkwater, 46, who took payments for headstones and funeral services between 2013 and 2015.
He would write fake receipts on compliment slips, leaving the bereaved families to only find out something was wrong when they chased up their orders with the company.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard he had taken £9,920 from a total of eight victims before he left Hopcraft Funeral Services in June 2015.
That month, another staff member overheard him taking cash after accepting a sale for a funeral package and asked him if that is what he had done.
Drinkwater initially denied it, but eventually admitted to the sale, handed his stunned colleague almost a thousand pounds from his back pocket, then put his coat on and walked out the building.
He was not seen again until January this year.
Funeral home manager Frank Jones said his staff decided to honour the orders that were fraudulently put through by Drinkwater ‘at their own expense’.
The kind-hearted gesture has put the Wolverhampton-based company at risk of collapse.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Jones said: ‘We will not know of the customers’ orders until they lose a loved one and they then come to ourselves with the order from Drinkwater, which will not have been documented anywhere or the order will not exist.
‘We have no idea when this nightmare will end for us.’
Drinkwater pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud and was sentenced to serve 10 months in prison and a further 10 months on licence.
Detective Sergeant Isobel Griffiths, from Wolverhampton Police, said: ‘This was an awful crime in which Drinkwater callously targeted grieving families when they were at their most vulnerable.
‘He then went on the run, hoping to never have to face up to his crimes.
‘The company that Drinkwater worked for are also victims in this. They trusted him to take care of these grieving families and instead he took advantage.’
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