Sick criminals plotted to rob Cilla Black's house during funeral
A plot to burgle the Buckinghamshire home of entertainer Cilla Black during her funeral has been foiled.
A professionally cut circular hole was discovered in the chain link perimeter fence of her Denham home today, ahead of her funeral next week, her former publicist said.
The discovery was made as Black's three sons, Ben, Robert and Jack, gathered for their mother's inquest in Liverpool.
Robert Willis, her eldest son, said: "I cannot believe someone would stoop so low at a time like this. It's inconceivable. Thankfully it was discovered in time."
The police have been informed and 24-hour security has been increased around the property.
All valuable assets including art, jewellery and personal items have been removed and taken to a secured unit at an unknown location.
Black's former publicist Nick Fiveash said: "It looks as if they have been preparing to burgle the house during the funeral.
"The hole in the chain link fence was cut in a very secluded place and it was not there before.
"It's a difficult time, today was the inquest and next will be the funeral. Her sons have been really brave and dignified and are carrying on for their mum."
Liverpool Coroner's Court head Black died from a "traumatic" head injury following a fall at her home in Spain.
Coroner Andre Rebello recorded a verdict of accidental death.
He said: "I understand Mrs Willis was discovered by her son Robert at 5.30pm on August 1 this year.
"She was on the terrace leading from her bedroom at her home. She had fallen and she had struck her head, and this traumatic head injury which had ensued had resulted in her death."
Her funeral will take place in Liverpool next Thursday at St Mary's Church, Woolton. She will then be laid to rest in a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery alongside her parents.
Mourners in Liverpool are expected to give a fitting send-off for the popular TV presenter and former pop star, who always held her home town in great affection.
A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said: "Thames Valley Police was informed of criminal damage at a property in Denham today.
"Detectives are investigating the matter."
Holly Lawrence, the deputy manager of the Sawn Inn pub in the village of Denham, said she was saddened to hear of such a plot at the star's home.
She said: "It's absolutely shocking to hear.
"I think everyone would be saddened to hear that someone was planning to burgle her home. Especially in the village, nobody wants to know of those plots in your area.
"Everyone was very shocked when Cilla died, you still think of her being in her prime. Lots of people from the village have been coming in and talking about their memories of her. It's very sad."