Official denies taking valuables from the Portsmouth homes of dead people

COURT Derek Offord arriving at Portsmouth Crown Court
COURT Derek Offord arriving at Portsmouth Crown Court

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A CITY council worker who handled burials for people with no next of kin stole valuables from the dead, a court heard.

Derek Offord is accused of taking antiques and other items worth tens of thousands of pounds while working for Portsmouth City Council.

A jury at Portsmouth Crown Court heard that the 59-year-old kept the property, which should have been handed to the authority.

In one case he allegedly made more than £28,400 by auctioning valuable stamp collections owned by a man who had died of cancer.

Prosecutor David Jenkins said: ‘Derek Offord has been employed by the city council and for many years had been manager of the administration and liaison team.

‘He also had responsibility as a position of welfare benefits officer and as such dealt with the burials and disposals of property of people who die without next of kin.

‘In that capacity, which is a position of extreme trust, the prosecution allege that he had been stealing large quantities of property belonging to dead people and their estates.

‘The problem with Derek Offord is he was never properly supervised.

‘He didn’t ever really keep any proper records.

‘You can imagine – someone dies, you go to their house, you would make an inventory, wouldn’t you, of the property? But he didn’t seem to do that.

‘We say he then started to use some of the property from those houses for his own.’

Offord was arrested when a fellow worker turned whistleblower in June 2010.

Offord’s car, home and shed in Orchard Road, Havant, a council rented lock-up in Portsmouth and his office were all searched as part of the inquiry.

Mr Jenkins said: ‘At each of these searches, property which we say he had no right to be in possession of was found.’

Offord denies two thefts – one in 2006 and one in 2010 – and four counts of possessing criminal property in June 2010.

(Proceeding)

‘Antiques and valuables were stolen’

THE huge haul of belongings Offord is alleged to have stolen from the homes of dead people ranges from clocks to vases, computer equipment and jewellery.

When his shed in Orchard Road, Havant, was searched in June 2010, officers discovered two clocks that had been taken from former antiques dealer Ivor Kemp’s home near Stroud, Petersfield, after his death.

Items seized from Offord’s car included vases, jugs, ornaments and a candelabra which was later found to match one at the late Mr Kemp’s home.

Property ranging from jewellery to watches, computer equipment, bags and purses were found at Offord’s office. Other belongings were found at a Lock and Store lock-up rented by Portsmouth City Council near the city’s Rudmore roundabout.

Prosecutor David Jenkins said: ‘We say they are all property that had been taken from the estates of the deceased.’