Two women have been ordered to repay almost £90,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act after burying Geoffrey Sturdey in his garden in 2008 and continuing to claim his benefits until their arrest in 2013.
Geoffrey Sturdey of Tregaron, Mid Wales, disappeared in 2008. His wife, Mrs Rebekah Sturdey, aged 56, and her friend Boqer-Ore Adie, aged 43, admitted the burial in Ceredigion and fraudulently claiming just over £135,000 of Mr Sturdey’s benefits.
Judge Paul Thomas at Swansea Crown Court, ordered Mrs Sturdey to repay £40,162 of her realisable assets and Ms Adie was ordered to repay £46,116 of assets worth £70,850. Counsel for Mrs Sturdey, Mr Chris James, stated that her assets included the land that she owned with her husband but that its estimated value may be affected by the fact that the late Mr Sturdey was in fact still buried there.
In the trial in respect of the burial it was heard that Mr and Mrs Sturdey, Ms Boqer-Ore Adie and her daughter, Miss Karmel Adie, all lived together at Beth Berith, Tregaron as part of an ‘obscure’ religious sect focussed on the Old Testament. He had chosen to be buried on the property whilst he was alive and this wish was carried out by the three women upon his death, discovered to have been due to natural causes, on the 5th October 2008. Mr Sturdey had made clear wishes to be buried in a particular plot on the property as he, and the other members of the sect, believed that Jesus would return to Earth seven days after his death to collect his spirit.
Following increased suspicions, the police and DWP investigators questioned Mrs Sturdey in January last year but she maintained that Mr Sturdey was travelling around Europe with a friend. The Police later discovered that Mr Sturdey did not have a passport and commenced a search. The three women were arrested in connection with Mr Sturdey’s disappearance but maintained that he was in Europe and did not want to be traced. Using specialist equipment, officers found Mr Sturdey’s body under a concrete floor in a plastic tunnel under a decorative rockery on the property. A search was conducted across the remainder of Beth Berith, and £6,115 was found in cash. Following the discovery of Mr Sturdey’s body, all three women did not answer further questions from the police.
The trial concerning Mrs Sturdey, Ms Adie and Miss Adie, in respect of the prevention of lawful and decent burial of Mr Sturdey and fraudulently claiming benefits took place in November last year. The burial was found to be lawful following the circumstances and the granting of the authorities permission. Mrs Sturdey and Ms Adie were given 20 months immediate imprisonment and Miss Adie was given a nine month term of imprisonment suspended for 12 months and a community order of 150 hours of unpaid work.
However as, both Mrs Sturdey and Ms Adie continued to claim disability allowances and pension credits on behalf of, and in respect of, Mr Sturdey, they were made subject of an application to repay the money they obtained under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
An application made under chapter 29 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) can result in confiscation proceedings or civil recovery of the proceeds from crime.
If you are currently subject of an application made under POCA, it is vital that you contact a member of the Serious Organised Crime unit of our Criminal Defence team. Our emergency crime line operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – please call 01254 606050 for immediate access to legal advice from a criminal lawyer.