Dying man’s funeral fund stolen at knifepoint in family row

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A dying man’s funeral fund was stolen at knifepoint to pay the costs of his son’s burial in a bizarre family row.

A father and two sons stole £4,500 from a terminally-ill man who had been saving up for when he died.

When the victim eventually passed away he had to be given a pauper’s funeral.

Judge Simon Lawler told Sheffield Crown Court: “It was an unseemly end to the end of two people’s lives.”

Peter Michael Codman, 54, and his sons Peter Lawrence Codman, 33, and Michael Codman, 30, who gave their addresses in court as Wellington Road, Sheffield, each admitted burglary on January 26 at the home of Mark Joel, who was the father of the younger men’s stepbrother Adrian.

Adrian had died shortly before the break-in and his father, who himself was terminally ill with HIV in hospital at the time, had agreed with Peter Codman Snr that they would share the cost of Adrian’s funeral.

However Mr Codman Snr did not believe Mr Joel, who had saved £4,500 for his own funeral, would keep his half of the agreement.

The men knew a friend of Mr Joel, Mark Wiltshire, who was looking after his flat while he was in hospital.

The Codmans approached Mr Wiltshire as he came out of the flat and said they would all go in their car to see Mr Joel to discuss the funeral expenses.

A bread-knife was pulled on Mr Wiltshire by one of the Codmans and he was told: “Give us his keys otherwise I will slit your throat. Tell us where the money is.”

The Codmans took the flat keys and Mr Wiltshire was kept in the car while Mr Joel’s cash was stolen.

Later the flat was found ransacked and the £4,500 was missing along with a television.

The Codmans went straight to the undertakers and paid for the funeral. All were arrested shortly afterwards.

Robert Stevenson, prosecuting, told the court: “The £2,690 funeral expenses of Adrian Joel were paid on January 26. We don’t know what happened to the remaining money.”

Richard Barradell, for Michael Codman said: “This is a highly unusual case. If ever an offence was committed for the right reasons this was it.

“Adrian Joel died tragically young and what this family and my client were all about was providing him with dignity. Throughout all of this it was getting money to pay for funeral expenses.

“They were at the funeral directors within hours paying off this debt. It wasn’t about greed or hurting people it was about helping.”

Geraldine Kelly, for Peter Michael Snr, a construction engineer, said: “This is an unusual offence. The financial motive was not for gain it was to cover the funeral expenses of his stepson.

“He was in a highly emotional state. He had raised the child from when he was young and regarded him as his own. He was acting in an extremely highly charged set of circumstances.”

Andrew Swaby, for Peter Lawrence Codman said: “There was a great deal of anxiety amongst the family and they took inappropriate steps.”

Judge Lawler gave each of the Codmans an 18-month jail term suspended for two years along with supervision.

He told them: “It arose out of a very sad and emotional situation and you Peter Codman Snr acted because it was felt an agreement would be breached.

“Whatever may be said about the motive the way you went about this in threatening Mr Wiltshire and taking the money was totally unacceptable.”

He said because the Codmans had been in custody for seven months since the offence he would “with some hesitation” give them suspended sentences rather than jail them immediately.