Belfast Telegraph

Ulster undertaker's employee stole £49k from grief-stricken families

A Northern Ireland funeral home manageress who stole almost £50,000 from grieving families has been jailed for a year.

Jailing 49-year-old Joanne Tumilson when she appeared at Belfast Crown Court, Judge David McFarland told her she could not blame the effects of having been caught up in the IRA’s Shankill bomb attack — in which 10 people died — nearly two decades ago for her crimes.

Tumilson’s defence QC, Brian Kennedy, had said that she had seen friends “maimed and killed” and this had an enormous effect on her and was “all she could attribute her illness and depression to”.

But the judge told Tumilson from St Anne’s Crescent in Newtownabbey: “I don't think you can blame a mental health deficit on the past”.

“Sadly there were other victims of the Shankill bomb but they do not resort to this type of activity.”

Earlier he heard that Tumilson was working as the manager of Houston and Williamson Funeral home on Belfast’s Crumlin Road when staff raised concerns about 20 clients paying late in September 2008.

Prosecuting lawyer Philip Henry said investigations conducted by a credit control administrator focused on one specific account which showed an outstanding balance of £2,250.

But enquiries revealed the account holder had a receipt confirming that the account balance was fully paid. Instead of lodging the money, Tumilson pocketed it, and investigations revealed that between February 2006 and September 2008, Tumilson stole £49,671.

Dismissed from her job on November 25, 2008, Tumilson did not co-operate with the internal investigation and disciplinary hearing but later pleaded guilty to a single count of theft.

The PSNI was unable to supply a photograph of Tumilson. “Following the conviction of an offender at court, official police photographs can be released to the media on the authority of the senior investigating officer if there is a valid reason to do so,” said a spokeswoman.

“In this case the press office has been unable to contact the Investigating Officer.

“ACPO guidelines also state that as with any issues which impact on human rights, there must be a balance between the rights of an individual defendant and that of the wider community.

“Any decision to release an image must be for a legitimate purpose, be necessary, and proportionate.

“Each police service will make that decision on a case by case basis.”

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