A DEBT-RIDDEN undertaker pocketed money meant for his father-in-law’s funeral and then forged a cheque to try to cover his tracks.

Expert embalmer Simon Hayward was working at East of England Co-operative Funeral Services last year when his family member died.

Due to the large staff discount he received, it was arranged with his surviving mother-in-law that she would transfer cash for the arrangements to Hayward which he would then pass on.

The 51-year-old paid a £1,000 deposit to the Co-operative, however, it did not receive an outstanding £2,123 which his mother-in-law had paid to him.

In fact, Hayward had kept the money to help with his money problems which stemmed from his temporarily separating from his wife, Colchester magistrates heard.

He found himself taking out pay day loans to support her and his children as well as paying rent on his own flat.

Hayward then created two receipts to give to his mother-in-law - one for the £1,000 deposit after losing the paperwork and one fraudulently for the £2,123 which he had not passed on.

He was sacked by the Co-op after his actions came to light, but has been taken on by a new funeral directors who agreed to pay the cash he owed to his previous firm.

Hayward, who had no previous convictions. has also since reconciled with his wife and the court heard his financial situation is improving.

He admitted one count of fraud by false representation at Colchester Magistrates’ Court.

Raph Piggott, mitigating, said: “He was getting pay day loans to pay back pay day loans and the money went up.

“He had the intention of paying the money but things just began adding him.

“He was blind as to how much it would cost him.

“He forged the first receipt stupidly because he had simply lost it.

“Another one would have been printed if he had simply asked.

“The second receipt was completely bogus.”

Magistrates decided they could deal with the case and handed Hayward 200 hours of unpaid work.

He must also pay £105 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

Chairman of the bench Robert Clubb said although the Co-op had paid the money back they still took the matter extremely seriously.