A serial fraudster who conned a couple out of thousands of pounds when they came to him for help with funeral plans has now set up a new funeral service.

Mark Kerbey, 55, of Station Road, Westcliff, left a couple £3,000 out of pocket after they paid him to organise their funerals but the plans never materialised.

Despite his conviction, Kerbey is now helping to run a new funeral home just minutes from where he committed the fraud.

Trinity Funeral Homes, in Station Road, Westcliff, was set up in March 2017 and Kerbey claims to be a partner of the new company.

He said: “I am trying to get back on the straight and narrow. I am a funeral director and have been for many years - the past is the past.

“I wouldn’t say I’m doing anything differently apart from being very cautious about pre-paid funeral plans.

“I am remorseful that the couple didn’t get the funeral they paid for.”

His old company, Mayer Funeral Homes, based in Bridgewater Drive, was forced into liquidation after he was jailed for unrelated fraud matters in 2014.

Two weeks ago, jury found him guilty of one count of fraud, but cleared him of the other two counts which related to similar incidents.

In 2014, Kerbey, who changed his name from Richard Sage in 2011, was handed a four-and-a-half year prison sentence for six unconnected counts of fraud by misrepresentation.

He was also banned from being a company director for 12 years.

A former employee of Kerbey’s who took over the business when the allegations against him came to light said his case is why the funeral business should be regulated.

Nathan Van Der Pant, 28, now runs Penrose Funeral Homes with his father Jeremy, in the former premises of Kerbey’s original company.

He said: “Mark is one good reason why this business needs regulation. At the moment, anyone can set up a funeral directors and have deceased people on the premises without anyone checking up on what you’re doing which is horrible because you assume its a professional.

“There are regulatory bodies but it is not compulsory which I think needs to change.

“People should be licensed and site inspections should be mandatory to prevent things like this happening.”