Funeral boss bolts to Bangkok
UNDERTAKER Neil Edward Gray failed to appear in the Ballina Local Court yesterday to face four new charges of stealing from the dead.
The former director of the Ballina Funeral Home is now charged with more than 20 offences, including removing jewellery from bodies in his care, fraud and deception.
Gray was not in court yesterday because he was in Thailand, where he had remarried recently, his solicitor Paul Pellandine said.
Mr Pellandine produced a medical certificate from a Bangkok hospital which said Gray was suffering from a swollen leg, “which limits his capacity to fly back”.
But Magistrate David Heilpern said Gray was in breach of his bail undertaking and should have been present.
He ordered that the accused manappear in person next Thursday.
If Gray failed to show, a warrant would be issued for his arrest in Thailand, or he would be dealt with in his absence, Mr Heilpern said. He pointed out that the letter from the hospital did not say that Gray could not fly.
“The outpatient date on the letter is April 8, some six days ago,” Mr Heilpern said.
He said Gray’s explanation for not being in court was “simply insufficient”. It was not good enough that the accused did not wish to interrupt his honeymoon.
Mr Pellandine said Gray had no intention of not returning to Australia.
“We are in daily contact and I have spoken to him about the new charges,” he said. His client had significant property interests in Australia, which bound him to the country “for his future well being”, he said.
Thirty-seven non-police witnesses are expected to be called if the case comes to trial.
Police allege Gray stole jewellery and other items from the bodies of people entrusted to him to prepare for cremation.
The latest charges relate to people claiming to have been defrauded after pre-paying for funerals at the home.
Australia has an extradition treaty with Thailand, which applies to offences considered to be punishable by imprisonment of one year or more.
Gray has pleaded not guilty to the charges laid so far.