Portsmouth City Council boss accused of ‘stealing from dead’

ON TRIAL Derek Offord arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court
ON TRIAL Derek Offord arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court
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A COUNCIL officer who handled burials for people with no next of kin stole valuables from the dead, a court heard.

Derek Offord is accused of helping himself to antiques, jewellery 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 thousands of pounds by auctioning valuable stamp collections owned by David Bradley, 62, of Romsey Avenue, Milton, who had died of cancer.

In another he is accused of stealing a clock and candelabra from the home of retired antiques dealer Ivor Kemp, 77, who died of pneumonia and had lived in Winchester Road, Petersfield – an area out of Offord’s jurisdiction for the city council.

Prosecutor David Jenkins said: ‘Since some time in the 1970s Derek Offord was employed by Portsmouth City Council and for many years he was manager of the administration and liaison team.

‘He also had responsibility as a position of welfare burials officer, which deals with the burials and disposals of property for people who die without next of kin.

‘In that capacity, which is a position of extreme trust, the prosecution allege he has been stealing large quantities of property from those people and their estates.’

Offord was suspended from his job and arrested when a junior employee, liaison officer Robyn Clark, turned whistleblower in June 2010.

His car, home and shed in Orchard Road, Havant, a council-rented lock-up at Lok ‘n Store on Whale Island, Portsmouth, and his office were all searched as part of the inquiry.

Police found stacks of items including jewellery, computers, clocks, furniture, a television, ornaments, wallets and handbags, which Offord claimed he was storing for the council. In each of the searches property which he had no right to be in possession of was found,’ Mr Jenkins said.

‘What the prosecution say is what he was doing with the property was dishonest and it is criminal property.’

Offord denies two thefts – one from Mr Bradley in 2006 and one from Mr Kemp in 2010. He also denies four counts of possessing criminal property in June 2010, where the owners of the items have not been traced.

(Proceeding)

‘He was respected at council’

THE woman who blew the whistle on her manager’s alleged crimes says she feared how she would be treated by the council.

Robyn Clark started working as a liaison officer at Portsmouth City Council, providing admin support for Offord, in 2004.

She reported his alleged behaviour to the council’s audit team in 2010.

Mrs Clark, who was giving evidence via a videolink having moved to Perth, Australia, last year, said she wanted to expose Offord but was worried what people would say because he was well- respected at the council.

She said Offord would share out cigarettes of deceased people and take alcohol from their homes. She told the court two council workers were supposed to attend properties together but Offord would often go with Bob Bradley, who worked at the coroners office.

‘He would often be one of the people that rang us to refer a case to us,’ she said.

‘He would go out and do the work on his own. He would buddy up with Bob Bradley to do the jobs.

‘I would say they were very close, they did lots of callouts together.’