Cemetery worker jailed

Wiilie Henderson pictured at the cemetery
Wiilie Henderson pictured at the cemetery

A cemetery worker from Bonnyrigg who admitted to illegally selling burial plots has been jailed for 16 months.

William Henderson (45) pled guilty to a single charge of running a fraudulent scheme, which affected 13 bereaved families, at the Mount Vernon cemetery in Edinburgh.

Mount Vernon Cemetry, Mount Vernon Road, Edinburgh.

Mount Vernon Cemetry, Mount Vernon Road, Edinburgh.

At a hearing in August, Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told that Henderson made thousands of pounds from his victims by selling burial plots which didn’t exist by forging documents, or selling sites which already contained remains.

In some cases he told families they were purchasing empty burial plots, however, they already contained human remains in unmarked graves.

Henderson had been employed at the Mount Vernon site from 1997 and was made full time superintendent in 2014. His fraudulent scheme ran between 2006 and 2015.

Andrew Richardson, Procurator Fiscal for Lothian & Borders, said: “This was a very unusual offence which greatly affected a number of families. It was a complex case to investigate, requiring painstaking effort from police and prosecutors to establish the fraud that was being perpetrated.

“Henderson was a trusted individual by those who had responsibility for the running of the cemetery and he took the opportunity to abuse that trust for his own financial gain.

“It should be some comfort to the victims of his offending that he accepted his guilt at an early stage in proceedings.”

Following today’s sentencing a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh said: “Willie Henderson’s criminal activities were a betrayal of the trust put in him by the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh but also, and more disturbingly, a betrayal of the trust put in him by families who were grieving and vulnerable – that’s why his crimes and so reprehensible and so regrettable.

“The Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh will continue to endeavour to provide both pastoral and practical support to those affected by Henderson’s crimes. We have also put in place systems to ensure that such instances of fraud cannot happen again.

“We welcome the court order that Henderson pay back the money he defrauded from the Archdiocese and would like to thank both Police Scotland and the Crown Office for bringing this very regrettable case to the legal conclusion it has reached today.”