Rotherham man’s life of crime blamed on 25-year-old disaster

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A SERIAL burglar who claims his life was torn apart when his father died in the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for another break-in.

Stephen Wilson was aged 15 when his father Derek Wilson, 61, was among 193 passengers who drowned when the ferry capsized as it left Zeebrugge in March 1987.

Iain Hillis, defending, told Sheffield Crown Court it was only in the wake of the disaster that Wilson discovered his dad had been leading a double life and had four wives and at least 10 children.

Mr Hillis claimed Wilson turned to a life of crime in the aftermath - but Judge Roger Keen QC, who jailed him for the burglary of a house on Main Street, North Anston, Rotherham, told him his background was ‘no excuse’ for his behaviour.

In 2006 he was given a 27-month prison sentence for three break-ins and in February this year a four-month jail term suspended for a year for another house burglary.

Wilson, of Woodland Drive, North Anston, admitted the latest burglary in April, during which jewellery, cash and electrical items were stolen.

Michael Tooley, prosecuting, said Wilson was seen in the street and when police found him in a house nearby they found him with car keys stolen from the premises.

Judge Roger Keen told Wilson: “Your situation is a sad one but that is no excuse for your offending, it is merely an explanation.”

It was six weeks after his death that Derek Wilson’s common-law wife Jean and the six children they had together in Waterthorpe found out he had been on the ferry because the bigamist travelled on a false passport.

He had another wife and daughter in Amsterdam and it is believed he had another wife in Malta.

Derek Wilson had been married twice before in Sheffield, with three more children from the relationships.

His daughter Liesl spoke of her dad for the first time on the 25th anniversary of the disaster, and said: “I always remember him coming back after months, usually in the middle of the night, and mum would say, ‘There’s somebody downstairs to see you’.

“He’d be here a few weeks and have buckets of money. He’d take us on days out – then just disappear.”

Derek Wilson, who was wanted by police in Sheffield for deception, boarded the ferry with a false passport and a birth certificate registered to a Cecil Naftel, of London, which meant his body was last to be identified.