Not guilty of stealing from corpses
BALLINA undertaker Neil Gray has been found not guilty of stealing jewellery from corpses after a year-long investigation that exposed inefficient business practices and a vengeful ex-wife.
In Ballina Local Court today, Magistrate David Heilpern dismissed charges of larceny against Mr Gray but found him guilty of two counts of possessing goods suspected of being stolen.
Mr Gray had already pleaded guilty to two counts of falsifying a document to obtain financial advantage.
The charges relate to when Mr Gray was the funeral director of Ballina Funeral Homes up until 2010.
The former Ballina Rotary Club president was accused of stealing jewellery and clothing from bodies of deceased people that passed through his funeral home.
That jewellery was found by police and his ex-wife in Mr Gray's filing cabinet.
Mr Gray always argued his innocence, saying he kept the jewelry in case family members wanted the items.
Gray's ex-wife was a star prosecution witness in the case but Magistrate Heilpburn said this morning while delivering his judgement that she was vindictive and persecutory in relation to her estranged ex.
The magistrate said in the month before Mrs Gray went to the police station, she retained the allegedly stolen jewellery for a period of months.
"This conduct was more consistent with trying to set her husband up than with any genuine concern for the return of the items," he said.
Mr Gray's funeral business was run inefficiently and improperly, the Magistrate said.
The court heard that Mr Gray was involved in local charities and fundraisers up until his arrest.
Mr Gray was placed on a good behavior bond for two years and fined $2000 for the goods in custody charges.
Outside court, Mr Gray told reporters he was sorry for anyone affected by his actions.
He now plans to move to Thailand.