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Conman funeral director back in prison.

Byline: By Neil Mckay

Conman undertaker Christopher Westcott, who stole money intended for his victims' funerals, is back in prison.

Westcott, 41, was jailed for three-and-a-half years when he appeared before Teesside Crown Court last week.

And last night a friend of one of his victims said: "It is the least he deserves. That man is beyond contempt."

Former steel erector Billy Moore, 63, handed over pounds 1,125 to Cathedral Funeral Services of Front Street, Framwellgate Moor, County Durham, four years ago, after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Cathedral Funeral Services was run by Westcott, who advertised the firm as "a Christian organisation firmly believing in giving our best to our clients". But instead Westcott pocketed the cash.

Mr Moore, of Church Point, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland, is very ill and was unable to talk to The Journal, but his friends, Trevor and Valery Luckey, of New King Street, Newbiggin, have been supporting him in his illness.

Mrs Luckey said: "To steal from a dying man is the lowest of the low. You hear of con merchants all the time, but you should be able to trust a funeral director. Billy has taken out another funeral instalment plan now with a local funeral director, but he has not received a penny from Westcott."

Judge Richard Lowden, sitting at Teesside Crown Court on Friday, ordered Westcott to pay pounds 6,330 compensation to his victims, along with a pounds 10,000 confiscation order, or face a further six months in jail after he admitted five charges of theft, and also obtaining pounds 5,870 from banks by deception.

But Mrs Luckey said: "Billy won't be building up his hopes. The way Westcott employs so many delaying tactics, it is doubtful whether he will be alive to get back what was stolen from him."

Mr Moore paid in advance for his funeral in September 2001 when he was living in Leadgate, near Consett, County Durham.

Westcott was convicted of fraud in June 2004 when Judge Guy Whitburn at Durham Crown Court called him a conman.

He was sentenced to 160 hours community punishment and ordered to pay pounds 1,180 after he admitted two counts of obtaining by deception.

The court heard he had diverted phone lines from another firm of undertakers to Cathedral Funeral Services so that he could attract business.

He had previously served six months in jail and had been fined for other offences of obtaining by deception.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 16, 2006
Words:410
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