An undertaker is facing jail after swiping a purse from the corpse of a woman less than an hour after she died.
Grahame Lawler carried out the crime when he was called to remove the body of the 78-year-old from the living room of her home.
A court heard he conned a police officer into leaving the room for a moment so he could get his hands on her purse.
Lawler, who committed the crime while employed by Co-operative Funeralcare, managed to swindle her credit cards and details of her PIN number.
The 37-year-old, who once served in the armed forces, stole Muriel Swift’s purse containing £200 while he was preparing to escort her body to a mortuary.
He pleaded guilty to the theft at a hearing at Cambridge Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, where he represented himself.
The case has now been committed to Cambridge Crown Court for sentencing at a later date, where Lawler could face being jailed.
Lawler, who has now stopped working for the funeral home, claimed he carried out the theft as ‘a way out’ from the ‘nasty and horrible things’ he had seen at work.
He said: ‘For six-and-a-half years I have been in this job and have seen some very vile nasty and horrible things.
‘Decomposed bodies, people that have been run over, things like that.
‘I saw the purse, I did take it and I thought it was the way out.
‘I have never done anything like this before and I’m sorry.’
Cambridge Magistrate’s Court heard a police officer arrived at Mrs Swift’s home on July 6 and checked the deceased’s handbag to trace her next of kin.
Lawler, of Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire, then asked the police officer to pass some paperwork to his colleague outside – giving him the 10 second window he needed to carry out his crime.
During proceedings the charge was changed from theft from a person to theft from a pending estate.
He had originally been due to appear in court on Monday but failed to turn up and went on the run.
A warrant was issued for his arrested and Lawler handed himself into police on Wednesday before being taken straight to court that day.
Prosecutor Philip Alcock, said: ‘This was in the strictest sense a gross, gross breach of trust, particularly as he was trusted by the officer, who was comfortable leaving him there for 10 seconds.
‘It must have left him wondering “if I can’t leave the undertaker in the presence of the deceased, what can I do?”‘
The police officer later noticed the purse was missing from the bag and told colleges to apprehend Lawler who was then arrested while at the mortuary in Papworth Hospital, Cambridge.
Lawler was found with the purse stuffed up his sleeve and cash cards with PIN details written on pieces of paper.
A spokeswoman for The Co-operative Funeral Care said Lawler’s crime was ‘despicable’
She said: ‘This was a despicable crime and we are pleased Lawler admitted his guilt.