Murder accused Donald Graham pretended to be the executor of Janet Brown’s father’s will and failed to inform family members he had died, a court heard today.
An undertaker and a priest told the court Graham had arranged the funerals of Janet’s parents when they died in 2007 and 2008.
Prosecutors claim Graham killed Janet, 45, in 2005 then drained the estates of her and her parents, Olive and Eric.
Janet’s cousin said nobody told her or her siblings when Eric died and she only realised when she visited Olive’s grave and found Eric had also been buried there.
Katherine Ann Dunston told Newcastle Crown Court she attended her aunt Olive’s funeral in 2007 but was not told her uncle had died a year later.
She said: “I was very surprised I had not been notified of Eric Brown’s death.
“I had left contact details with my uncle for myself, my sister and my brother. I was surprised we were not contacted by anybody.”
Mrs Dunston made inquiries at St Andrews cemetery, in Hexham, and was told Eric had been buried there six weeks before, in March 2008. When Mrs Dunston contacted funeral directors Dodds of Hexham, she was told the funeral had been organised by a man called Don.
She sent Graham a letter expressing her gratitude for him arranging the funeral and everything he had done for her uncle.
Mrs Dunston said she became suspicious in 2012 when an alteration was made to the headstone of the grave Eric and Olive shared.
Prosecutor Robert Smith QC asked her: “Was there an additional plaque fitted reading ‘Eric, dad, loved and missed’?”
Mrs Dunston replied: “Yes. I passed this information to Northumbria Police.
Funeral director Alan Dodd said Graham had arranged the send-offs of both of only-child Janet’s parents, claiming he was the executor of the estate.
Mr Dodd said: “I understood Mr Graham was not a relative. He said he was handling the funeral because he was the executor of the estate. I believed him.”
Canon Jack Trimble, based at Hexham Abbey, carried out both funerals and said Janet did not attend either. Speaking of Olive’s funeral, Canon Trimble said: “I remember the daughter was not available or contactable. It was very odd.”
The churchman said Graham met him at the Abbey to arrange Eric’s funeral. He said: “I thought it was quite kind of him to step in to help.
“I must have mentioned the daughter to him. She was the only close relative, I couldn’t leave her out.”
Graham, 59, of Elsdon Avenue, Seaton Delaval, denies murder but admits fraud.
The trial continues.