'Vile' burglar broke into funeral home and ransacked corpses for jewellery

·4-min read
Serial burglar Marc Griffin broke into a funeral home in Barnstaple, Devon, and ransacked bodies. (Reach)
Serial burglar Marc Griffin broke into a funeral home in Barnstaple, Devon, and ransacked bodies. (Reach)

A burglar who ransacked dead bodies for jewellery after breaking into a funeral home has been jailed.

Marc Griffin, 42, from Devon, tipped ashes on the floor and tried to steal valuables from people's remains.

He broke into the chapel of rest at Padfields Funeral Service in Barnstaple and rifled through drawers, cupboards and the personal belongings of the deceased, Exeter Crown Court heard.

Griffin, a drug addict with a long criminal record, having carried out 60 previous burglaries, admitted the recent offences and was jailed for two years and seven months.

He committed three commercial burglaries in the early hours of 13 March, at the funeral parlour, a cafe and a hairdressers, the court heard.

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Marc Griffin broke into a funeral parlour and ransacked bodies in a search for valuables. (Reach)

Prosecutor Althea Brooks said Griffin entered the undertakers on Boutport Street by breaking in through a next door shop.

She said he left the funeral parlour in a "serious state of disarray" after rifling through cupboards and drawers, removing ashes from boxes and leaving his bloody hand prints behind.

Ms Brooks said bags of clothing belonging to the deceased were emptied and a sealed letter intended to be placed in someone's coffin was ripped open and left covered with blood marks.

The court heard that Griffin also opened two bags containing bodies from a mortuary fridge, rummaging through them for items to steal.

A general view of Exeter Crown Court in Exeter, Devon.
Marc Griffin was jailed for two years and seven months after a hearing at Exeter Crown Court. (PA)

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Griffin also searched a Mercedes hearse but did not damage it.

The court heard three statements on behalf of families who had relatives in the funeral home.

One said her mother died in her 90s and had served her country in the war.

"It was a place she should have been safe and at peace and rest," the statement read.

"When we were informed someone had broken in and disturbed Mum I was horrified and the whole family was devastated our loved one was violated in such a way. We are horrified someone could have done something like this and find it so very shocking."

Another said his "gentleman" 90-year-old uncle had been lying in rest in his coffin while Griffin rummaged around nearby.

A third said Griffin searched her mother for jewellery.

"Her peaceful sanctity was violated by this vile individual who disturbed my mother at her time of rest," said the statement.

"He has prolonged the grief and sadness at my mother's passing. The indescribable base actions of this individual have cast a shadow on the memory of our dear Mum."

The court heard that Griffin started his burgling spree at about 3am, using a hammer to smash his way through a window of the Lemon Next To The Pie cafe in Holland Street.

He was caught on CCTV dragging out a till that contained £240 in cash. He also stole a mug that contained staff's tips but cut his hands on the broken glass.

Marc Griffin broke into Padfields Funeral Service in Barnstaple, Devon. (Reach)

After moving on to the funeral home, Griffin also broke into a hair salon, where he stole two pairs of clippers worth £50 each, an Alexa speaker and hair straighteners worth £100.

He also took money from two charity boxes.

Griffin, who lived in supported accommodation, was traced via a bloody trail and discarded stolen items, as well as a pair of stolen beard trimmers under his bath.

The owner of the cafe said she no longer kept cash on the premises and had decided to sell the business she had spent years building because of the anxiety and breakdown in trust caused by the break-in.

The burglaries put Griffin in breach of a 16-week suspended sentence imposed in August last year for a non-dwelling burglary.

Evie Dean, defending, said Griffin came from a troubled background in care and his ex had died of a drug overdose.

She said he stole to feed his drug addiction but was now a grandfather and sorry for what he had done.

Sentencing Griffin, Judge Paul Cook told him: "Over the years you have attempted to burgle and have burgled 60 premises or homes to steal from the living. Here you have sought to steal from the deceased.

"There was total indifference and disregard to the hurt, pain and distress that would inevitably cause to loved ones."

The judge said Griffin had robbed his victims of their chance to grieve and had "magnified the trauma for them many times over".

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