‘Forgiven’ funeral cash thief is back in court

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

Colne’s luckiest man appeared before a court accused of flouting a suspended jail term for thieving – and then returned to lodge with his victim.

Drug addict Michael Swales had inflicted heartbreak on pensioner friend Trevor Barker after helping himself to the victim’s hard-saved £4,250 funeral cash.

He had earlier been spared an immediate prison sentence and left with his victim, who had forgiven him and said he is still going to leave him his house.

Swales had been staying with family friend and ex-workmate, 72-year-old Mr Barker, who had told him he had stashed the cash in a bag, deep between his two mattresses.

The vulnerable victim had treated his long-time pal Swales like a son.

He trusted him completely and wanted Swales to know where the money was in case anything happened to him so his funeral could be paid for, Burnley Crown Court had heard.

Mr Barker, who had at the time been unaware of the defendant’s drug addiction, had attended the sentencing hearing.

The court had heard the victim had charitably suggested Swales could be tagged to his address so he could help him out.

Jobless Swales (41), who had no previous convictions, had earlier admitted theft of £4, 250 from Mr Barker at his home in Brierfield, on Tuesday, December 2nd.

The defendant, of Church Meadows, Colne, had been committed to the Crown Court for sentence by Pennine Magistrates.

In February, he was given eight months in jail, suspended for two years, with 12 months’ supervision and a nine month drugs programme.

Swales was ordered to pay £250 compensation to Mr Barker at the end of six months and then £100 per calendar month.

After the sentencing hearing, Swales and his victim had left court together.

Mr Barker had said there would always be a place for Swales at his home and added: “When I die, he gets my house, in trust”.

Swales, for his part, who had described his own behaviour as “despicable”, said he couldn’t believe Mr Barker’s continued kindness to him and added: “I am very lucky”.

On Monday, Swales was back in the dock, accused of breaching the terms of the suspended prison sentence.

Swales told the court: “I’m on my medication now and I’m totally stable. I wasn’t on my medication for two months.”

He added: “I’m still at the victim’s address. He’s let me back. He’s let me stop there.”

The hearing was adjourned again until Monday when the defendant will be back at the Crown Court.