Rival undertaker scuppers funeral

An undertaker sabotaged a funeral by stealing the keys from his rival's hearse forcing the owner to hot-wire the vehicle, a court has heard.

David Wood snatched the keys from the ignition of a vintage Rolls Royce belonging to funeral director Joel Kerr while it was parked outside the Salvation Army citadel in Middlesbrough.

The vehicle contained the coffin of Patricia Thorburn at the time, and mourners were left blocked in the car park while they waited to bury her.

The jury at Teesside Crown Court heard that Wood was jealous of the success of Mr Kerr's business, and took the keys as revenge for the 'poaching' of his customers.

While Mrs Thorburn's friends and family waited to bury her, a queue of mourners waiting for the next funeral began to form outside.

In order to follow Mrs Thorburn's wishes that she be carried to her funeral in the Phantom VI Rolls Royce, Mr Kerr was forced to rip the dashboard from the 1968 vehicle and hot-wire the engine, allowing the cortege to drive from the citadel to the town's Acklam Cemetery.

Wood, 48, of Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to one count of theft and sentencing was adjourned until next month by Judge Les Spittle so a pre-sentence report could be prepared.

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