A COUNCIL worker accused of stealing valuables from the dead kept books on antiques for legitimate reasons, a court heard.
Derek Offord, 59, told an 11-strong jury that pocket antiques books seized by police were innocently kept in his car and office to help him identify goods at the homes of deceased people.
Offord, who handled burials for people with no next of kin for Portsmouth City Council, is accused of keeping property which should have been handed to the authority.
During evidence at Portsmouth Crown Court he said: ‘The small book that was in my car was a pocket Marks book and it lived in the car.
‘It was just there in case.
‘It was a very small book and it would just be there in case we might find it useful.
‘It just gave some basic key information just in case we wanted to check china, particularly.’
Offord is alleged to have stolen a clock and candelabra from the home of a retired antiques dealer Ivor Kemp, 77, of Winchester Road, Petersfield, who had died of pneumonia – an area out of Offord’s jurisdiction for the city council.
In another case he is alleged to have made thousands by auctioning valuable stamp collections owned by David Bradley, 62, of Romsey Avenue, Milton, Portsmouth, who died with no next of kin.
Offord was suspended from his job and arrested when a junior worker, liaison officer Robyn Clark, blew the whistle in June 2010.
Police searched Offord’s car, home and shed in Orchard Road, Havant, a council-rented lock-up at Lok ‘n’ Store in Whale Island, Portsmouth, and his city council office as part of their inquiry.
Officers found stacks of items including jewellery, computers, clocks, furniture, a TV, ornaments, wallets and handbags. Offord claimed he was storing them for the council.
Asked by Judge Sarah Munro about the content of stamp collections that were seized from his home, he replied: ‘I haven’t seen that collection for two years.’
He added: ‘That would be general residual stuff that was any surplus that I had, but very cheap.’
Offord denies two counts of theft – 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 owners of the items have not been traced.