BY Staff Reporter | September 29 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

mount vernon

Former Catholic graveyard manager jailed over burial fraud

The former superintendent of a graveyard in St Andrews and Edinburgh Archdiocese has been jailed for 16 months after he pleaded guilty to fraud.

46-year-old Willie Henderson was sentenced today, September 29, at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after he pleaded guilty to selling illegal burial plots to bereaved families during his time at Mount Vernon Cemetery from 2006-2015.

Mr Henderson sold forged burial deeds for cash-in-hand at varying prices, which went undeclared to his employers, the archdiocese, who own what is Edinburgh’s only Catholic cemetery.

This typically involved identifying and selling spare unused ground such as access paths, while two cases involved an ‘over-burial,’ where families were sold plots that already had deceased individuals buried there in the unmarked grave.

The archdiocese alerted police in 2015 after a complaint was made to them from an undertaker over an allegedly fraudulent burial deed.

The families affected have since received an apology from the archdiocese, and a personal letter from Archbishop Leo Cushley expressing sympathy and offering support.

“Willie Henderson’s criminal activities were a betrayal of the trust put in him by the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh but also, and more disturbingly, a betrayal of the trust put in him by families who were grieving and vulnerable,” a spokesperson for the archdiocese said after the sentencing. “That’s why his crimes are so reprehensible and so regrettable.

“The Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh will continue to endeavour to provide both pastoral and practical support to those affected by Henderson’s crimes.

“We have also put in place systems to ensure that such instances of fraud cannot happen again.

“We welcome the court order that Henderson pay back the money he defrauded from the archdiocese and would like to thank both Police Scotland and the Crown Office for bringing this very regrettable case to the legal conclusion it has reached today.”

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