Undertaker faces more charges
CHARGES of stealing from the dead against Ballina Funeral Home director Neil Edward Gray continue to mount as he prepares to front court at Ballina again today.
Police in February added another 10 charges to the accusations Gray stole items such as jewellery from the bodies of people entrusted to him to prepare for cremation.
Gray, 67, of East Ballina, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Shortly before Christmas he declared the accusations against him were “totally unfounded and the truth will prevail”.
Police yesterday announced they had added another two charges to the list, this time from people claiming to have been defrauded after pre-paying for funerals at the Ballina Funeral Home, which Gray owns with his estranged wife.
There hasn't been any suggestion Gray's estranged wife was in any way complicit in the charges laid against him.
The new accusations bring the charges laid against Gray to about 20.
Yesterday, Richmond Local Area Command crime manager, Inspector Greg Moore, called on anyone who had bought funeral bonds or pre-paid funerals through the funeral home to check with their funds to make sure their money was secure.
Insp Moore agreed the call was an unusual step for police, saying they did not like appearing to solicit complaints against someone.
But he said complaints against Gray continued to trickle in and it would be helpful to the case if all charges could be grouped together.
Gray was arrested in December, when it is believed a colleague at the funeral home went to the police with a quantity of jewellery, including necklaces, rings and watches allegedly taken from the bodies of people placed in Gray's care.
Gray is also accused of stealing a Ballina RSL Club dinner jacket worth $500 that was in his care.
Police allege Gray inflated the invoice for one funeral he conducted and he duplicated another invoice, seeking payment from two insurance plan providers for the same funeral.
He is accused of fraudulently presenting statements totalling more than $15,000 for two other funerals.
Some of the charges against Gray date back to 2006.
Gray previously told journalists the jewellery he was alleged to have stolen could not be in the casket during a cremation. He said he removed it from the dead and labelled it with their name to hold in trust. It was an “oversight” the jewellery was not returned to family members, he said.
Anyone with concerns about pre-paid funerals at the Ballina Funeral Home should call Ballina detectives on 66818699.