Christopher Blackburn jailed over father death fraud

A 29-year-old man who failed to report the death of his father for nearly five months and claimed his benefit payments has been jailed for three years.

Police found the body of Guy Blackburn, 54, on a bed in the living room of his home in Penwortham, Lancashire, last March after neighbours raised concerns.

Christopher Blackburn, from Birkby, Huddersfield, admitted theft and preventing a lawful burial of a body.

Preston Crown Court heard he took his father's benefit payments of £1,869.

The court was told the defendant continued living in the house with his 10-year-old daughter and lied to her that her grandfather was asleep in his room.

A Home Office post-mortem examination revealed Mr Blackburn had died from natural causes, probably about several months earlier.

The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell, said: "Such offending is abhorrent to all decent-minded people who will be disgusted by your behaviour.

"It was callous and offensive to his (Guy Blackburn) friends and family who no doubt have been caused considerable distress by these circumstances.

"It also seems to me that you were motivated in part by greed."

The court heard Blackburn lied to police that he had spoken to his father since November 2010 and he had a drink with him at Christmas.

Judge Russell told him: "You pretended he was still alive, misleading others - particularly your own daughter, a little girl.

"You have shown little remorse for your offending.

"A decent person would have immediately admitted to the police that this poor man had died months before but you tried to pretend he had been dead for only days."

'Grandfather asleep'

Kirsten McAteer, prosecuting, said the defendant had moved into his father's house after he separated from his girlfriend and the mother of his child.

He lived upstairs while his father slept downstairs.

The court was told Mr Blackburn had health problems because of alcohol abuse and had lost contact with the rest of his family, leaving his son as his main carer.

The prosecutor said the defendant's former girlfriend recalled that Blackburn initially made excuses for their daughter not to stay over at the house.

She visited the address herself in November 2010 and noticed there were a lot of air fresheners upstairs and remembered holding her nose because of the smell, Miss McAteer said.

She assumed Mr Blackburn was ill or asleep in his room.

Her daughter's visits continued but in February last year she told her that "granddad was dead".

"She simply had no reason to believe there was any truth in what her daughter was saying," she said.

"It seems that the girl had told other children that 'granddad was dead'.

"It appears she later told her mother that the defendant had told her that grandfather was asleep."

Drink problems

During this period, Blackburn had met a new woman and was living on and off with her in Huddersfield, the court heard.

He was not present at the house when police responded to concerns about Mr Blackburn's welfare.

Miss McAteer said it was "immediately apparent" he had been dead for "some considerable time" when police called.

Daniel King, defending, said his client had his own drink problems and had suffered depression after losing a son to cot death. His former girlfriend had also miscarried twice.

"Perhaps one of the most distressing features of this case was the repeated visits of his daughter to the house and that she was aware that something was wrong with her grandfather," he said.

Blackburn was now in a "firm and permanent" relationship with his new girlfriend, who was in court to support him, he said.

The 29-year-old was sentenced to four months in jail, to run concurrently, for the benefit fraud.

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