Man who stole rings from dead girlfriend's fingers spared jail
A MAN who stole rings off his dead girlfriend's fingers has been branded "despicable" – but spared prison.
Philip Spencer took three rings, as well as £130 in cash, when he found Christine Kirk dead in her home.
Miss Kirk, 58, of Malborough Avenue, Hornsea, died of natural causes in May, a coroner ruled last month.
Spencer, 51, a handyman, had claimed he took the rings, which were later returned to the Miss Kirk's son and daughter, to pay for his partner's funeral.
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But Judge John Dowse, sitting at Hull Crown Court, told him he could not think of a more despicable crime.
He said: "The circumstances are disgusting.
"It is true these rings were returned to the family because of the sentimental value they had and you believed you had been responsible for the funeral expenses.
"What you should have done was consult her family but you did not. You simply stole the rings.
"It is difficult to think of a more despicable offence, stealing from a dead body of someone you no doubt had cared for and you tried to deprive her family of the sentimental effects she had."
Spencer had also told police he took Miss Kirk's rings as a keepsake.
But the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the claim and Spencer pleaded guilty to three counts of theft.
The court heard how he had let himself into her house and stole £50 from her purse after he claims he found her sleeping.
The next day he returned and realised she had died and stole a further £80, along with the rings.
Spencer claimed the money was owed to him for DIY work he had completed at her home.
After realising Miss Kirk had died, Spencer raised the alarm with a neighbour, who immediately called an ambulance.
Miss Kirk's family contacted the police after discovering her property was missing.
Spencer's barrister, Nigel Clive, said: "These are distasteful circumstances in which this theft took place and he realises that.
"It is to his credit that he returned the rings and he has repaid the money."
Spencer, who is due to start a horticultural course at Hull College, was sentenced to a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
He was also ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £100 court costs.
After the inquest into Miss Kirk's death, her daughter Sarah O'Reilly and son Steven Kirk said their grief had been compounded by Spencer's actions.
Mrs O'Reilly, 39, said: "How could anyone stoop so low as to steal rings off the fingers of a dead person?
"If he had wanted money or something to remember her by, all he needed to do was ask."