A cemetery official made more than £14,000 by burying bodies on top of each other in a fraud lasting nine years.
William Henderson, 46, also pocketed cash by selling space that families had reserved for future bereavements and in areas of the cemetery where burials were not allowed.
Henderson, former superintendent at Edinburgh’s Mount Vernon Cemetery, pleaded guilty to a single fraud charge when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday.
William Henderson, 46, made more than £14,000 by burying bodies on top of each other as part of a nine-year fraud at Edinburgh’s Mount Vernon Cemetery
His criminal scheme at the city’s only Catholic cemetery involved 13 cases of fraud between 2006 and 2015, totalling more than £14,000.
He sold plots for as much as £6,500 – although in one case he charged just £20 and altered records to make it appear the plots were vacant.
He had no authority to sell the sites, which were already owned by others, on common ground or had remains interred in them.
In one case he took £900 for a plot, even though it had already been used to bury a stillborn child, while another was sold despite being over an underground stream.
One man went to Henderson looking for a burial site for his mother and was told that ‘officially’ none were available. However, he said he owned a plot and was happy to sell it because he was going through a divorce and needed the money.
The man paid £850 for the plot, only to discover later that it was actually owned by a family who bought it in 1988.
As superintendent at Mount Vernon Cemetery in Edinburgh, Henderson even sold a plot that had already been used to bury a stillborn child
The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh said it regretted the actions of its former employee, and was helping those affected.
The court heard yesterday that the church had repaid all the money to the victims. Sheriff Donald Corke deferred sentencing to September 29, but warned Henderson: ‘This is clearly a very serious matter and you should be aware that custody is the most likely outcome.’
Henderson’s criminal actions came to light after a suspicious undertaker contacted the archdiocese in January 2015.
Dr Elspeth Atkinson, chief operating officer at the archdiocese, said after the hearing: ‘There are two victims of Willie Henderson’s criminal behaviour: The Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, which has been defrauded of thousands of pounds, but – much more significantly and disturbingly – is the impact on those families who were exploited by him at a time when they were grieving and vulnerable.
‘That’s why his crimes are so shocking.’
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Grainger said: ‘William Henderson targeted vulnerable families when they were grieving and distressed.
‘His deception and exploitation led to Henderson amassing thousands of pounds from these families, which he hid from his employers.’