Cromer undertaker cleared of stealing soldier’s funeral donations

Norwich Magistrates Court picture by Adrian Judd

Norwich Magistrates Court picture by Adrian Judd

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A north Norfolk funeral director has been cleared of stealing thousands of pounds of money donated to a military charity in memory of a former soldier killed in Iraq.

A north Norfolk funeral director has been cleared of stealing thousands of pounds of money donated to a military charity in memory of a former soldier killed in Iraq.

Jean Amis, joint owner of Cromer and District Funeral Services, was accused of creaming off cash to ease her own financial problems and trying to cover her tracks after donors became suspicious.

Her firm arranged the funeral of former paratrooper Nicholas Crouch, 29, who was protecting American troops in the Iraqi city of Mosul when he died in a bomb blast in July 2010, which saw nearly 350 people attend St John the Baptist Church in Trimingham.

District judge Peter Veits yesterday dismissed the charge of theft against Mrs Amis, saying he was not satisfied she had stolen the money – but that cash had gone missing and that others involved may have left her “to carry the can”.

The 71-year-old, of Roughton Road, Cromer, let out a deep sigh of relief as Mr Veits read his judgement at the end of a frequently heated two-day trial in Norwich.

The case against Mrs Amis alleged that. following the funeral collection in August 2010 which was entrusted to her to count and bank, she had taken cash and reported a lower total to Mr Crouch’s parents.

Mrs Amis told the court she received the plastic bag of money from her husband, who attended the service, and stored it in the office safe but put off counting it until weeks later at home.

Her list of the donations totalled £1,746.40, yet when in December 2010 she sent the money to Combat Stress – without counting it again – she was sent a receipt and thanks for just £1,022.31.

When the charity queried the shortfall of more than £700, Mrs Amis made up the difference herself.

Giving evidence, a tearful Mrs Amis had said she was the company’s “people person”, and was not good with administration or figures.

She said: “I’m not a thief and I’m not a liar and I didn’t steal any money and I never have stolen any money.”

The shortfall came to light when mourners received letters from Combat Stress thanking them for smaller than they had donated – in one case a donor who had left £30 was thanked for a £2 contribution.

Mr Veits said though money had gone missing, he could not say “beyond reasonable doubt” that Mrs Amis had stolen the money and said the business’s “chaotic administration” could have been behind the incomplete paper trail.

There were other opportunities when the money could have been tampered with, he said, and the failure to count the money at the church meant “we will never know” the lost amount.

He added: “I believe that Mrs Amis did indeed know there were problems with the collection balancing but chose to bury her head in the sand, putting off the day that she counted in and subsequently sent it to the charity.”

Clive Crouch, who conducted his own investigations before presenting a 21-page dossier to police, said afterwards he was “disappointed” with the outcome but accepted the judge’s decision.

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