A crooked undertaker who conned thousands of pounds from grieving families in a funeral scam has been jailed – after going on the run for nine years.
Steven Drinkwater, 46, told the families of lost loved ones to pay him in cash for organising burials and headstones but he kept the money for himself.
Between 2013 and 2015, Drinkwater pocketed more than £9,000 while working at a funeral home in Wolverhampton.
His victims included a mother with a stillborn daughter, bereaved spouses and other parents who had lost children.
A court heard Drinkwater persuaded families to pay cash for funerals.
In June 2015, a staff member overheard Drinkwater accepting a sale for a funeral package and witnessed cash being given to him.
When he was asked if he had accepted a sale, Drinkwater denied it before taking £1,000 in cash from his back pocket and handing it over.
Drinkwater then put his coat on, left and never returned.
In the following months, when the funeral directors called customers to settle their balances, they were told that they had done so already – to Drinkwater.
In some cases, Drinkwater had fraudulently forged customer signatures on paperwork.
An investigation was launched and West Midlands Police issued a wanted appeal for him but he evaded capture for nine years.
He was finally caught on January 7 this year in Devon following a tip-off from a member of the public.
Drinkwater, of Ottery St Mary, admitted eight counts of fraud and was jailed for 10 months in prison at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
He was also ordered to serve a further 10 months on licence following his release from prison.
The court heard Drinkwater had two previous convictions for 11 offences.
Detective Sergeant Isobel Griffiths 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.
“The company honoured all sales that Drinkwater dealt with to ensure no family was at a loss.
“The sentence shows that we will never give up in getting justice for victims of crime.”