AN ALTRINCHAM crematorium technician has been jailed after admitting stealing grieving mourners' donations.

Robert Booth, 53, from Oxmead Close in Padgate, Warrington, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail after admitting five counts of theft at Trafford Magistrates’ Court on January 20.

Booth, who had worked as a technician at Dunham Massey crematorium for nine years, had been filmed stealing cash from the donation basket on October 27, November 5, 19 and 29, and December 2.

A camera was installed in the chapel area of the music room in October after the crematorium’s manager hired a private detective to investigate claims by mourners that money was being taken from collections.

Prosecutor Eileen Rogers told the court that Booth was seen on the camera taking notes out of the white wicker collection basket and putting them in his jacket pocket.

She said the manager had immediately contacted police to report the thefts of between £5 and £10 each time.

The court heard that Booth, who is suffering from depression and ill health, had racked up thousands of pounds of debt on credit cards, a bank loan and arrears caused when his wife’s business failed.

A couple of weeks before he was filmed taking money, Booth had booked two flights to Australia for February to see his son who had been diagnosed with leukemia.

Booth’s defence solicitor Kenny Ip said his client had stolen out of desperation to pay his mounting debts and was remorseful.

“He didn’t steal to buy flash cars or go to the cinema, he only wanted to live.

“He was so desperate that there was no way out for him,” he said.

But Trafford Magistrates took the matter seriously, with bench chair Ann-Marie Evans asking Booth how he felt about himself for stealing from dead people.

She said: “You have got debt, like millions of people in the UK but they don’t go around stealing from people.

“These are despicable offences against particularly vulnerable people.”

Booth, who already has a conviction for stealing from an employer dating back to 1988, said he had embarrassed himself and his family and was disgusted at himself.

After sentencing Booth to 12 weeks in jail, the bench paid tribute to the families and friends of the deceased, who had been affected by the case.

Booth resigned from his post at the crematorium on January 14.

Executive Councillor John Reilly said: "Mr Booth's behaviour is despicable and insensitive, especially when you consider he was in a position of trust in a place where people are paying their respects to relatives and loved ones.

"As soon as our staff at the crematorium were made aware of the suspicions around Mr Booth they acted immediately to gather evidence to confirm the allegations. Mr Booth was suspended immediately in accordance with Council policy and has subsequently left the Council."

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