Man hid dead neighbour in yard and turned house into cannabis factory
A man has been jailed for three-and-half years after he illegally moved and hid the body of a Royal Navy veteran so a cannabis factory could be set up in his home.
Paul Jackson, 40, moved the body of his neighbour Nicholas Clark after he died from natural causes and concealed it under debris in a yard behind a former gym in Gloucester Road, Patchway, South Gloucestershire.
The remains of the 63-year-old, who served in the Navy as a helicopter engineer between 1967 and 1981, were found wrapped in tarpaulin when the yard was being cleared in April 2015.
The yard was behind a disused gym and flat being rented by Jackson's co-defendant Anthony Whillier, 30, who had been using the property to grow cannabis.
Mr Clark's body was identified by a steel pin attached to his hip and when police attended his home in Charlton Leaze they found a cannabis factory inside.
Forensic inquiries linked the defendants to the cannabis factory inside Mr Clark's home and uncovered financial transactions showing Jackson had been taking money from the victim's bank account after his death.
Jackson, of Charlton Leaze, Patchway, admitted at Bristol Crown Court charges of preventing a lawful burial, theft and allowing the production of cannabis.
His friend, of Royal Victoria Park, Bristol, was sentenced to a two-year suspended jail term after admitting cannabis production. He was also ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Williams, who led the investigation, said: "Nick Clark deserved respect for loyally serving his country but after he died from natural causes, his so-called friend and neighbour Paul Jackson treated his body like a piece of rubbish.
"Nick's remains weren't found until the yard behind the gym was cleared by the landlord after it'd been recovered from his tenant Whillier.
"Nick's family have been devastated by the way his body was treated after he died and it's hard to comprehend how anybody could treat a human being in this callous way.
"We aren't able to say exactly when Nick died, but we do know he was last seen at hospital in February after undergoing an operation. Because he wasn't reported as missing, it's very likely his remains would have remained undetected if the yard hadn't been cleared.
"In interview, Jackson admitted moving the body and taking money from Nick's account after his death.
"This is a tragic set of circumstances and my thoughts are very much with Nick's family who've been left to come to terms with his death and the resulting grim and selfish actions of Jackson."
Mr Clark's family released a statement following the sentencing.
"It's devastating to know that Nick's body was treated with such crudeness," they said.
"The lack of respect shown by the perpetrators, by setting up a cannabis factory in his personal home while depriving his family of his personnel and financial effects, is beyond comprehension.
"While Nick may have died in natural circumstances, the actions of the perpetrators to move his body from the home he loved and leave it in the backyard of a disused shop, showed a complete lack of respect for any human being, let alone someone classed as a friend.
"Nick deserved to have his human rights respected, and not be treated as something which could be discarded without a moment's thought.
"Nick may have in the last years of his life decided to distance himself from his family, but he was still in our minds, hearts and prayers.
"We can't begin to stress the difficulties this situation has caused our family.
"Nick was a lonely man who relied on the support of his neighbours and friends. He was a man who served his country in the Royal Navy and he was a man who should have left his time on earth with dignity.
"However, the perpetrators involved in this case decided they were above the law on this and decided their personal gain was worth more than the respect of Nick."