Two women who secretly buried a man in the garden of their home in mid Wales and then continued to claim his benefits have been ordered today to repay almost £90,000 between them.
Rebekah Laden Sturday, aged 56, and Boqer-ore Adie, 43, of Beth Berith, a small holding near Llwynygroes, Tregaron, were told they would go back to jail if they did not pay within six months.
The women were both jailed for 20 months earlier this year. Sturdey admitted preventing the decent and lawful burial of her husband Geoffrey and receiving £57,759 in disability living allowance and pension credits by pretending he was still alive and touring Europe.
Adie also admitted the burial charge and receiving a total of £77,318 in benefits in his name by also claiming a carer’s allowance and income support.
Today, Judge Paul Thomas, sitting at Swansea crown court, made orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
He ordered Sturdey to repay £40,162 after being told that she had realisable assets worth £47,770. Adie was told to repay £46,116 out of assets worth £70,850.
Huw Rees, prosecuting, said Adie’s assets included cash and gold coins.
Chris James, the barrister representing Sturdey, said her assets included land at Beth Berith but the value of the land might be affected by the fact that Mr Sturdey was still buried there.
The burial was now lawful, he added, as the relevant authorities had granted permission, but the effect on its value could not be predicted.
The court heard that both women had already completed the custodial element of their punishments because they had spent time in custody before being sentenced.
At their sentencing hearings the court was told that Karmel Adie, 25,--no relation to Boqer-ore Adie--admitted the burial charge and was given a suspended prison sentence.
Mr Rees said that all four lived as an obscure religious sect at Beth Berith. They studied the Old Testament and Beth Berith could mean God of the Covenant in Hebrew.
Mr Sturdey had adopted the name Shamar, which meant The Keeper in Hebrew.
Mr Rees said police and DWP investigators questioned Mrs Sturdey in January, 2013, and she maintained he was touring Europe with an unknown male companion.
But according to notes written by Boqer-ore Adie it appeared he had died aged 60 from natural causes at 1.15am on October 5, 2008, which she described as the being during the seventh Hebrew lunar month.
Police discovered he did not have a passport and began a search that would cost £20,000. On June 18, 2013, using specialised equipment, they found his body under a concrete floor inside a plastic tunnel.
A pathologist found the body, wrapped in cloth, to have been ”remarkably” well preserved and he was able to determine that Mr Sturdey had died from natural causes. A local doctor who had examined Mr Sturdey a few days before his death said he seemed to be in poor health “and resigned to his fate.”
Mr Rees said it appeared that Mr Sturdey had been buried at a location and in a manner of his choosing and that all concerned had expected Jesus to return to earth seven days later to collect his spirit.
However, there were rules about what had to happen in the event of death, not least to ensure that no foul play had taken place.
Mr Rees said police searched the smallholding and found £6,115 in cash in four locations.
On November 11, 2010, a woman calling herself Mrs Adie had telephoned a gold dealer in Ludlow requesting to buy £50,000 worth of gold in cash.
The following day £20,000 was transferred to the dealer and a further £15,000 the day afterwards.
Mr Rees said later two women, one identifying herself as Karmel Adie, met the dealer at the end of a lane near Beth Berith and handed over a further £16,000 in £20 notes.
After being arrested, shortly before Mr Sturdey’s body was discovered, all three women maintained he was in Europe and did not want to be traced. Later, after the burial had been found, they refused to answer any further questions.