Neil Gray arrives at Ballina Court House to face charges of larceny, theft and fraud.
Neil Gray arrives at Ballina Court House to face charges of larceny, theft and fraud. Jay Cronan

Wife's 'threat to kill' undertaker

CHERYL Gray told police her funeral director husband was stealing jewellery from corpses. However, before she told police, she threatened to kill him in his sleep, a court heard.

A bitter divorce and ongoing property law battle was at the centre of a hearing at Ballina Local Court yesterday, which involved the Ballina undertaker facing charges of larceny, theft and fraud.

Neil Gray is accused of taking jewellery from corpses while he was a funeral director at Ballina Funeral Homes.

He was surrounded by supporters and appeared calm as he sat behind his defence lawyer, Paul Smart, in court.

Gray’s ex-wife, Cheryl Gray, was one of 23 witnesses selected to give evidence during Gray’s hearing.

After the pair separated in 2009, Ms Gray said she found jewellery, including rings and a watch, in Mr Gray’s possession at the funeral home and in his briefcase.

When Ms Gray asked her ex-husband why he had the jewellery of deceased people that had passed through their funeral home, he replied “it seemed like a waste to leave it in the coffin,” she said.

“I said to him ‘that’s not your call’,” she said.

“He said ‘well what are you going to do about it?

But Ms Gray’s motives came into question when cross examined by defence.

The defence claimed Ms Gray told her ex-husband of 45 years she was going to kill him and then take him to the Pacific Hwy with his motorbike to make it look like an accident.

The defence also asked whether she threatened to make her ex-husband’s life a “misery” and to put him in jail.

Ms Gray wrapped in a snug red knitted jumper as she sat in the witness box, denied the accusations.

When asked why she did not return the jewellery, Ms Gray said she did not think it was appropriate.

The defence said “forgetfulness” was the reason Mr Gray had not returned the jewellery.

If he had wound up his business, he would have returned it, defence claimed.

The family members of a number of deceased persons, who were clients of Ballina Funeral Homes, identified their loved ones’ jewellery with police, the court heard.

Ken Chapman from the Funeral Directors’ Association of NSW said from his experience, directors would return the jewellery of the deceased to their family immediately.

Mr Gray entered a guilty plea to two minor offences – relating to false documents – but confirmed he would defend the other allegations.

The matter was adjourned until August 10.

 

Items allegedly stolen

  • Gold wedding bands
  • Chain and medallion
  • Gold and sapphire ring
  • Pearl necklace and earrings
  • RSL jacket
  • Other jewellery


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