Helen Wilson, a director at family-run George Brooke Ltd, has said she was disappointed and 'gutted for our bereaved families' after a company administrator was found guilty of stealing money from funeral collection boxes.
Julie Padgett helped herself to up to £4,000 given to charities nominated by deceased persons and their relatives.
Her appalling six-month crime spree was discovered when her Dewsbury-based employer George Brooke Ltd set up CCTV equipment to monitor 21 collection boxes.
When suspicions were first raised about money going missing Helen and sister Judith and brother Neil, who also run the firm, did everything possible to find out what was happening.
Helen said they had always had CCTV in the offices but more cameras were installed and trained on Padgett’s desk.
Money that was donated at funerals was always brought back from the church or crematorium in a locked box and counted in the office, receipted and signed off by two people.
But CCTV revealed a sleight of hand by Padgett who swept money into her coat as it was being counted.
Helen said: “She had developed a skill where she was able to secrete money away and it would disappear into her coat. She had developed the art of a croupier.”
Helen said that Padgett had worked for the firm for 10 years, since before her father George had died.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “Every member of staff is so devastated because we trusted her.
“What has upset us most is that we don’t know how long this had been going on and it’s not just us who have been duped but the families we care for.
“We just want everybody to know that we would have acted sooner if we had known. We are never going to know how many people have been affected and we are so sorry for that and hope people will understand.”
The family turned detective and gathered all the evidence for police. They even counted cash at the crematorium and marked notes with ultra violet ink so that it could be tracked.
“The police thanked us and said we had done the job for them,” said Helen.
“We just hope everyone will understand. We've done everything we possibly could after we found out.”
Padgett was sentenced at Kirklees Magistrates' Court to 26 weeks in custody, suspended for two years.
She was ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £1,500 compensation to the funeral home.