A ‘HOARDER’ hid his 90-year-old mum’s body in a freezer and fraudulently claimed thousands in benefits after finding her dead, a court heard.
Police found the body of Philipe Brough’s mother at the three-bedroomed, two-storey flat they shared in Wilmcote House, Tyseley Road, Somers Town, Portsmouth, during a search.
Louise Brough was ‘frozen solid’ in her nightclothes having been wrapped in a pillow and a duvet or sheet before being placed in an upright freezer in a ground floor room.
Brough had then wrapped cling film around the side of the freezer, secured it with tape, covered it with a large cardboard box and hidden it behind a mattress.
Police believe Mrs Brough had been dead for about five months.
A post-mortem examination later revealed she had died of natural causes.
Now Philipe, 54, of Charles Street, Landport, Portsmouth, has been spared jail after he admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of his mother’s body.
He pleaded guilty to failing to inform the Department of Work and Pensions his mum had died in order to fraudulently claim benefits paid to his mother and him as her carer.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard Mrs Brough and her son had moved to the Wilmcote House flat in 1970 when Philipe was 11 years old after his dad died.
In later life Mrs Brough suffered from a raft of health problems including dementia.
She was last noted as being seen in public by a city council cleaner in September 2012, having become bed-bound.
Son Philipe, who has no previous convictions, was her sole carer, having quit his job to look after her.
Suspicions were aroused about Mrs Brough’s welfare when council staff tried to contact the pair last August regarding a £400 credit on her housing account and work being done to the block of flats which would have meant they had to temporarily move out.
Mr Brough at first told staff his mother had suffered a stroke and would not be able to understand the officers.
On quizzing residents they discovered his mother had not been seen for some time.
When Mr Brough called a housing officer to cancel a home visit on August 13, claiming he had a migraine, the officer alerted social services and police.
A police community support officer visited the flat but on getting no answer, police were called in.
When they got no answer from knocking they forced their way in through the front door and found Philipe Brough inside.
Mr Brough told officers his mother had gone to stay at his aunt’s in London, but checks revealed two addresses he gave did not exist and he was initially arrested on suspicion of murder.
Officers then searched the flat, but their work was hampered by a large amount of property inside it, which they described as being like the property of a ‘hoarder.’
They found the freezer plugged in and hidden in a ground floor bedroom.
Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said: ‘When the freezer door itself was opened it revealed the dead body of an elderly, white female who was dressed in her nightclothes.
‘The body was described as being frozen solid.’
Mr Booth said there is no evidence that Mr Brough, who suffers from depression, is responsible for his mother’s death.
In interview Mr Brough told police he had found his mum dead when he took her a cup of tea in the morning.
The court heard he couldn’t remember the exact date she died, but it was narrowed down to the end of February or beginning of March.
He said he had concealed his mother’s death as he ‘very much panicked’ on realising he would not be able to remain in their council-owned home.
Mr Brough said he had put her body into the unused freezer which had been bought the previous year and had ‘gone into shock.’
The court heard he fraudulently claimed a total of £5,390.04 in pension credit, state pension and attendance allowance meant for his mother, income support and carer’s allowance.
Of that £3,387.40 is outstanding.
Mr Booth said: ‘He effectively said he didn’t really know what he was doing at the time but once he had done this he found it very difficult to get out of it.’
The offences were committed between February 28 and August 13 when Louise Brough’s body was found.
Matthew Jewell, defending, said Mr Brough had suffered ‘some kind of breakdown’ at the time of his mother’s death.
Mr Jewell said: ‘The fraud arises, as does the ongoing concealment, from his desire for things to remain as they had been.’
He added: ‘This is not a wicked or evil offence, it is an offence borne of distress, of depression, of emotional breakdown.’
Brough was sentenced to eight months in jail suspended for a year, put under supervision for 12 months and told to pay £750 costs.
He was ordered to take part in eight education, training and employment sessions.
Addressing Brough, judge Roger Hetherington, sentencing, described his actions as ‘inexcusable’ but accepted they were not motivated by financial gain.
Judge Hetherington said: ‘What is inexcusable was to embark on the elaborate course that you did, involving a considerable deception over a period of time on dealing with your mother’s death in the way that you did.’