Portsmouth council officer may face retrial on theft charge

Derek Offord of Havant arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court, accused of stealing for the dead and dying
Derek Offord of Havant arrives at Portsmouth Crown Court, accused of stealing for the dead and dying

Purse thief fined £100

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THE jury in the case of a council officer accused of stealing from the dead has been unable to reach verdicts on three of the charges he faced.

Derek Offord handled burials for people with no next of kin for Portsmouth City Council and was accused of stealing valuables from the homes of those who passed away.

He was found not guilty by the jury of one charge of theft and one of possession of criminal property after a three-week trial at Portsmouth Crown Court.

A charge of possessing criminal property was dropped during the trial.

But after more than nine hours of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach verdicts on another charge of theft and two of possession of criminal property.

Judge Sarah Munro QC discharged the jury, telling them not to feel bad for failing to make a decision.

Paul Fairley, prosecuting, said: ‘I would ask for seven days for the prosecution to consider whether there will be a retrial.’

Offord, 59, was cleared of stealing a valuable stamp collection owned by David Bradley, 62, of Romsey Avenue, Milton, who had died of cancer.

He was accused of selling the collection at auction for thousands of pounds.

But he told the jury he was a stamp collector and the items he sold at auction were his own.

He was also cleared of possessing criminal property, which related to items including furniture and a television found at the council’s rented storage space at Lok ‘n’ Store on Whale Island, Portsmouth.

The charge that was dropped during the trial related to the alleged possession of criminal property, including jewellery and computer equipment, found at Offord’s office.

The 11-strong jury was unable to reach a verdict on an allegation that Offord stole 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.

The charges of possession of criminal property that the jury were unable to decide on related to items, including ornaments and clocks, found in Offord’s car and shed.

The case was listed for a hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday when the prosecution will decide whether there will be a retrial.

Offord started working for the council in the 1970s and was manager of the administration and liaison team.

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

Offord, of Orchard Road, Havant, was suspended from his job and arrested when a junior employee, liaison officer Robyn Clark, made the allegations against him in June 2010.