29th Jun, 2022

Burglar stole devastated woman's late partner's ashes - then scattered them in street

Editorial Correspondent 14th Dec, 2018 Updated: 14th Dec, 2018

A HEARTLESS burglar stole a devastated woman’s late partner’s ashes – and then callously scattered them in the street.

Although the police helped her sweep up what they could, the remaining ashes are now tainted by being mixed with dirt and gravel from the roadside.

And a judge at Warwick Crown Court told burglar Conner Rickhuss it was ‘one of the most grave aggravating features’ he had ever come across.

Rickhuss (22) who is from Coventry but of no fixed address, was jailed for just under two years and five months after pleading guilty to the burglary.

Prosecutor Alex Warren said that Rachel Stansfield had lived alone since the sad death of her partner in January.

She woke on the morning of September 1 to find that the kitchen window of her home in March Way, Coventry, was wide open, so checked round the house to see if anything was missing.

Some cigarettes had been taken, but of far greater significance, she then discovered that a keepsake metal tube containing her late partner’s ashes was missing.

And even more distressing, it was found that the burglar had tipped the ashes out at the side of the road as he made off with the container, which has never been recovered.

Mr Warren said that in a statement she says she cannot believe anyone would have acted in such a way towards someone’s ashes.

Rickhuss, who had a number of previous convictions for burglary and was on licence at the time from a four-and-a-half-year sentence, was arrested after his fingerprints were found in the house.

At first he denied being responsible, but then admitted the offence, saying he had seen the window partly open and the cigarettes inside – but, appearing upset and expressing remorse, said he could not remember taking the ashes.

Jamie Scott, defending, conceded that as a ‘third strike’ burglar, Rickhuss was facing a minimum sentence of three years, with a 20% reduction for his guilty plea.

But he asked the judge not make the sentence any longer than that, pointing out that the burglary itself would be in a category with a ‘starting point’ of 12 months.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said the temptation to make it longer was ‘great because of the grave upset’ it had caused.

But jailing Rickhuss for 876 days, Judge Lockhart told him: “This is one of the most grave aggravating features of any case I have had to deal with for a long time.

“If never it was driven home to you, it is about to be driven home now the effect of the type of conduct that you consider to be normal in your life.

“The complainant in this case had the enormous misfortune to lose her partner at a frighteningly young age to disease. She had to go through the trauma of that and of him being cremated.

“All that was left of him was a pile of ashes.

“You, no doubt moving about the city, decided you needed something and decided to go into her house, an occupied house, at night, and you broke in and took some cigarettes and the ashes of her partner.

“They were then simply scattered onto the pavement as you moved away with that urn.

“One can only imagine the horror she felt as she had to reconcile herself to the fact that this had happened and, with the help of the police, gather up the remaining ashes from the roadside.

“She says ‘This is all I had left of him. All I have are some of the ashes with gravel mixed in with them.’

“I don’t have to say anything more to you, other than that the disgust society will feel for you is something you will have to live with as you go forward. Go away and reflect on how you feel about what you have done.”

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