Burnley thief dumped grandad’s ashes in bin

James Greenwood
James Greenwood

A burglar dumped the ashes of a much-loved grandad in a bin when he discovered the remains in his stolen haul, a court has heard.

James Greenwood struck in a planned burglary while a family was away on holiday, but he panicked when he opened the wooden casket and found the remains of Mr John Clarkson along with his photo and death certificate. He had died eight months earlier.

Burnley Crown Court was told Greenwood felt ashamed of his actions and wrote to the family with an apology while he was on remand in prison, saying he knew he would go to jail and he would call round “so you can give me a right good beating” when he gets out.

But Mr Recorder Geoffrey Lowe put a restraining order on Greenwood, preventing him from going anywhere near the burgled home in Brownhill Avenue after prosecutor Mr David Traynor said the family wanted nothing to do with him.

Recorder Lowe jailed Greenwood (43), of Deerstone Avenue, Burnley, for 20 months for the burglary.

Mr Traynor said Mr Clarkson’s grand-daughter, Claire Wynn, and her family had had to mourn for him a second time.

When he was arrested, Greenwood told police he was ashamed for putting the ashes in a bin. “I wanted to put them back but I was worried about my forensics,” he said. The court was told he later went back to the house and leaned over the back gate and had a conversation about a dog with Miss Wynn.

None of the property taken in the burglary was recovered. The casket also held a watch belonging to Miss Wynn’s late grandmother. A Masonic medal and a signed BFC football were taken along with electrical equipment, in all worth £3,000.

Mr Philip Holden (defending) said Greenwood accepted the need for a restraining order. “The defendant accepts he will go to prison and that he rightly deserves a custodial sentence. What he did with the ashes of the grandfather has been preying on his mind.

“It may be of little help to the victims,” said Mr Holden. “But, had it not been for his admission, he would not have been charged. The police could not find anything when they searched his house.

“He accepts now that the letter was inappropriate, but he had no idea it would upset them, quite the reverse. It was something he felt he wanted to do to show contrition.”

Mr Holden said Greenwood was a man who had many problems caused by his abuse of drugs, and that he was at a crisis point in his life when he committed the burglary.