Westminster: Police attend incident at Trafalgar Square
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Marc Griffin smashed his way into the chapel of rest at Padfields Funeral Services in Barnstaple and rifled through personal items belonging to the deceased. He opened a letter that a family wanted placed into the coffin of their loved one, broke into collection boxes and stole the keys to a hearse.
Griffin, of St George’s Road, Barnstaple, tipped out ashes and tore crematorium certificates from boxes, leaving behind prints from his cut and bloodied hands.
And he disturbed two bodies while searching for things to steal.
The families have described their devastation on learning about the appalling desecration of their loved ones.
A drug user with more than 200 previous crimes to his name, Griffin told Exeter Crown Court he was sorry and embarrassed by his actions.
Judge Paul Cook 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 which were all committed in the early hours of March 13.
Prosecutor Althea Brooks said CCTV showed him at about 3am standing outside the Lemon Next To The Pie cafe in Holland Street.
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He used a hammer to smash his way in through a window – cutting himself in the process – and could be seen dragging out a till containing £240 in cash. He also took a mug of tips.
Griffin then moved on to the undertakers in nearby Boutport Street.
Ms Brooks told the court that after breaking in through a neighbouring shop, he left the premises in a serious state of disarray.
He emptied tubs of ashes and ransacked a coffin workshop, throwing tools on the floor.
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Ms Brooks said bags of clothing for the deceased were emptied and the sealed letter intended for a coffin was ripped open and left with blood marks found on the message.
He then targeted a fridge, opening two bags containing bodies.
When staff arrived the next day they discovered they had been moved as he searched for items to steal.
Griffin’s third burglary was at nearby Sophisticuts hair salon.
He stole two pairs of clippers worth £50 each, an Alexa speaker, hair straighteners worth £100 and cash from two charity boxes.
Griffin was found via a trail of blood and discarded, stolen items leading through Hilton Park and a car park.
A pair of stolen beard trimmers was also found under his bath.
The court heard how the cafe owner said she no longer kept cash on the premises.
She had also decided to sell a business she had spent years building due to the anxiety and breakdown in trust caused by Griffin’s crime.
Three statements were also read out on behalf of the families who had relatives in Padfields.
Each explained how their grieving and the trauma of their loss had been made much worse by Griffin.
One relative, who said her mother was in her 90s and had served her country in the war, said: “It was a place she should have been safe and at peace and rest.
“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 his uncle, who died aged 90, had been lying in rest in his coffin while Griffin rummaged around nearby.
A third said Griffin searched her mum for jewellery, according to DevonLive.
She said: “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.”
Griffin’s burglaries put him in breach of a 16-week suspended sentence imposed in August for a separate burglary.
Evie Dean, defending, said he wanted the chance to keep working with probation but realised he might go to prison.
She said Griffin came from a troubled background in care and his ex had died of a drug overdose.
The court heard that he stole to feed his drug addiction, but was now a grandfather and sorry for what he had done.
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.
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