Burglar threw ashes on floor and tried to steal from bodies at Barnstaple funeral parlour

Credit: BPM Media

A serial burglar has been jailed for breaking into a funeral parlour in Barnstaple where he tried to steal from dead bodies.

While ransacking Padfields Funeral Services, Marc Griffin tipped ashes to the floor and smashed his way into the chapel of rest.

He left a trail of destruction as he emptied ashes and tore crematorium certificates from boxes with his cut and bloodied hands.

He also rifled through drawers, cupboards and personal belongings of the deceased, broke into collection boxes and stole keys to the hearse.

Ms Brooks from the parlour said bags of clothing for the deceased were emptied and a sealed letter intended for a coffin ripped open and left "with blood marks found on the remainder of the letter".

Most shocking of all, he disturbed two bodies while searching for items to steal. He opened the fridge containing dead bodies and opened two bags with bodies inside.

The families have described their utter devastation at learning about the callous and appalling desecration.

Griffin - a drug user with more than 200 previous crimes to his name - told Exeter crown Court he was sorry. He was embarrassed by his actions, he said.

The judge sentencing him to two years and seven months in jail said: "Over the years you have attempted to burgle and have burgled 60 premises or homes to steal from the living.

"Here you have sought to steal from the deceased. There was total indifference and disregard to the hurt, pain and distress that would inevitably cause to loved ones."

Griffin admitted three burglaries all committed in the early hours of 13 March.

The prosecutor said CCTV first showed him at about 3am standing outside the Lemon Next To The Pie cafe in Holland Street.

He used a hammer to smash his way in through a window - cutting his hands in the process - and could be seen dragging out the till containing £240 in cash and a mug containing tips.

He then moved on to the undertakers in nearby Boutport Street.

When staff arrived next day they discovered they had been clearly moved as he rummaged for items to steal.

Griffin had also searched the Mercedes hearse but had not damaged it.

The third burglary happened at nearby Sophisticuts hair salon where Griffin stole two pairs of clippers worth £50 each, an Alexa speaker and hair straighteners worth £100.

Griffin, who lived in supported accommodation in St George's Road, was easily traced via a bloody trail and discarded stolen items leading through Hilton Park, Pilton car park and a pair of stolen beard trimmers under his bath.

Three statements were read on behalf of the families who had relatives in Padfields.

Each said their grieving and trauma of loss had been made worse by learning what Griffin had done.

One said her mother was in her 90s and had served her country in the war: "When we were informed someone had broken in and disturbed mum I was horrified and the whole family was devastated our loved one was violated in such a way.

"We are horrified someone could have done something like this and find it so very shocking."

Another said Griffin searched her mum for jewellery. "Her peaceful sanctity was violated by this vile individual who disturbed my mother at her time of rest.

"He has prolonged the grief and sadness at my mother's passing. The indescribable base actions of this individual have cast a shadow on the memory of our dear mum."

Ms Evie Dean, defending, said she wanted the chance to keep working with probation but realised he might go to prison.

He stole to feed his drug addiction but was now a grandfather and sorry for what he had done, she said.

Judge Paul Cook said: "It is the impact you had on various victims along with the way that is most relevant to sentence."

He said Griffin had robbed his victims of their chance to grieve and had "magnified the trauma for them many times over".