'Living legend' Hackney police officer stole thousands of pounds from dead people, court hears
PUBLISHED: 14:54 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 08 November 2019
A highly respected former Scotland Yard sergeant plundered thousands of pounds in cash from the homes of the recently deceased, a court heard
Graeme "Taff" Williams, 66, was a long-standing sudden death co-ordinator in Hackney, helping to find family members of people who had died. He even continued the role as a volunteer after his retirement.
Police bosses "trusted him implicitly" to catalogue belongings until an heir could be found and pay for funerals from their estates, Snaresbrook crown court heard this week.
But Williams is now accused of stealing cash from two estates, taking expensive furniture, electrical goods and artwork from a third home when the grieving family believed it was heading to a homeless charity, and he allegedly unnecessarily tipped off an "heir hunter" company about high value estates in exchange for a fee.
Williams spent 26 years as a Met officer. He was a sergeant in Hackney and the borough's sudden death coordinator until his retirement in September 2013, the court heard.
Prosecutor Alexandra Felix said Williams had "gained such a degree of kudos" as an officer he was described as a "living legend" in one his performance reports.
"In short, he was held in high regard such that the senior management team trusted him implicitly," she said.
"In a gross breach of the trust however, he abused his position by helping himself to the cash that was recovered, stealing it and providing information to heir hunters in return for payment."
Jurors heard that in July 2012 officers collected £40,835 in cash from the house of an elderly man who had to be moved into a care home. Records allegedly show that Williams signed out the money from the superintendent's safe to "bank it".
However, Williams is accused of not putting the money into an account and later sending an email to Hackney Council claiming just £35,835 had been recovered from the address. This amount was later transferred to a family member after the owner's death, the court heard.
In January 2015 officers found the body of David Johnson in his flat in Upper Clacton Road and discovered £46,315 in cash under his bed, jurors heard. Williams, now volunteering for the Met, was put in charge of the money, but it is claimed the cash was £6,520 short when it was handed over to the family.
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"Williams was the only person to have access to the cash once it was lodged by officers who recovered it", Ms Felix said.
It is alleged that Williams kept a total of £11,520 from the two estates.
Defending, Ben Summers told the court on Tuesday that several people at the station would have had access to the cash when it was placed in the superintendent's safe at Stoke Newington station.
Williams is also accused of plundering the estate of 75-year-old James Considine after his death in Templecombe Road, Hackney, in April 2015.
It is said he was left in charge of clearing Mr Considine's flat and giving to charity possessions including furniture, a 60-inch flat screen TV, fridge freezer, washing machine and artwork.
Mr Considine's sister says she believed the items were heading to a charity called Homes for the Homeless, but no record of the donation could be found.
She later found only the expensive items had been taken away and the flat was in "disarray" with the sofas slashed and carpets ripped. An £800 watch that Mr Considine had owned was also reportedly missing.
Jurors heard Williams had around £5,000 in cash in a box when his home was searched by police, as well as more than £20,000 in a safe.
It is said investigators also found bank records with more than £11,000 in payments to Williams from heir hunters Fraser & Fraser, as well as emails between him and the firm discussing the estates of wealthy people who had died. Heir hunters track down the beneficiaries of estates and charge people who benefit from them a commission.
Williams is accused of using his position to unnecessarily tip off the company when he already knew who the next of kin were and "exposing the estate to depletion".
Williams, of Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, denies three counts of theft and one count of fraud.
The trial continues.