A “vindictive and spiteful” mother who cremated her son without telling her ex-husband because she didn’t want him to attend the funeral has been jailed.
Callous Cathleen Hackney, 56, lied to undertakers so ex-husband Paul Barber, 56, could not say a final farewell to son Paul Moreland, who died aged 32.
A court heard she didn’t want her former partner at the funeral following years of conflict and a bitter divorce – so acted out of “spite” and cremated John in secret.
However, Hackney did not turn up either meaning no one was at the early morning ceremony for tragic Paul, who passed away from liver disease in 2010.
Last month the former nurse was found guilty of false representation under the 1902 Cremation Act, which is not thought have been used in a prosecution for almost a century.
Even after being convicted she still refused to reveal to the court or her former husband where her son’s ashes were scattered.
In May she was jailed for four months and ordered to pay Mr Barber £5,000 in compensation at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.
Sentencing Judge David Fletcher QC described her actions as “wicked” and said he had never known a case like it in his entire career.
He added: “I have listened carefully representations from both sides in this case.
“This was an usual case and I have never come across anything like it before.
“It involved the sad death of your son Paul.
“Following your divorce from Mr Barber, Paul lived with you and adopted your maiden name but still kept in regular contact with his father.
“There was no doubt that there acrimony between you remained after the divorce and you discouraged your son from seeing his father.
“When he became seriously ill he continued to visit his son in hospital.
“He was sadly put on a ventilator a decision was later taken to turn this off. This case is primarily to do with events following that.
“Mr Barber contacted you the following day and said he intended to go to the hospital and deal with Paul’s death registration.
“You then accused him of not caring about his son. He took exception to that and he became abusive to you. Emotions at that time must have been at fever pitch.
“However, you decided that was the last contact you would have with him despite his best efforts to take part in the funeral.
“You booked the funeral and made it clear he was to have no part. He made arrangements for a separate funeral but you prevented this.
“You then made false representations to funeral directors to have your son cremated without Mr Barber’s knowledge. You kept him completely in the dark.
“You knew what you were signing was false. You said there were no near relatives who hadn’t been informed or had expressed reservations about the service.
“You signed a statement of truth which states it is an offence to make a false declaration concerning the disposal of human remains.
“There was nobody at the service to pay final respects to your son except the funeral director. That can’t be what he would have wanted.”
“You said you scattered Paul’s ashes on the family plot but that’s a matter of conjecture.
“Your actions were intended to cause harm to Mr Barber.
“You were determined to exclude him from the funeral arrangements and keep him in the dark. You knowingly broke the law to makes that happen.
“He has suffered and continues to suffer psychological distress as a result of your actions.”
The judge also criticised Hackney, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., for not admitted her guilty during the trial, which she used to “trawl back through the difficulties of her marriage.”
He added: “During this trial I urged you to consider making concessions which would limit the psychological impact of this trial on you and Mr Barber.
“You ignored this and continued to plead not guilty and pursue your defence.
“You are purported to have since expressed remorse and say you understand Mr Barber was grieving for your son too.
“But it was apparent when you gave evidence you wanted to trawl back through the difficulties of your marriage and put blame on Mr Barber.
“It’s hard therefore for me to accept your remorse.
“I accept you have no previous convictions and are were a woman of good character prior to this.
“I accept you suffer with depression and anxiety but the medical report makes clear that this was made worse due to your dealings with Mr Barber following your son’s death.
“This has been one of the most difficult cases I have ever encountered. Your behaviour was selfish and egocentric.
“It’s an old fashioned word but your behaviour was wicked.
“Your offence is so serious that it crosses the custody threshold and I do not believe a fine or suspended sentence is sufficient.”
Her trial heard there had been intense animosity between Hackney and Mr Barber despite more than three decades having passed since their acrimonious divorce in 1983.
When their son died of chronic liver disease, both parents were at his bedside but within hours of his death they became embroiled in a bitter telephone row and Hackney decided to carry out one final act of revenge.
The next day at The Co-operative Funeral Care in Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, she filled in a form stating that no near relative was opposed to the cremation.
When Mr Barber heard about her plans, he took legal advice so he could be involved and even took steps to stop Paul’s body being removed from the hospital mortuary.
But Hackney sacked the first undertaker and met with a second funeral director and signed another form stating they were no reasons why they could not go ahead with the cremation five days later.
Despite the efforts of Mr Barber’s lawyers, the body was wrongly released for a funeral which took place on December 20, 2010 at Stafford Crematorium.
Pipe fitter Mr Barber, 56, only found out the ceremony had taken place in a phone message left for him by his solicitor three hours after the service.
He contacted police shortly afterwards, but Hackney was not interviewed until last December – four years after the crime.
Hackney was found guilty of signing a false certificate with a view to procuring the burning of human remains and of making a false representation with a view to procuring the burning of human remains.
Speaking outside court yesterday Mr Barber spoke of his relief that the case was a over and said he still did not know where his son’s ashes were scattered.
He added: “She’s vindictive and I’m glad the judge has seen through her. I’m not glad it’s come to this though.
“I don’t think she’s sorry like she’s claimed. I think she’s sorry she’s been caught and sent to prison.”
“She won’t cope well inside. She’s not very good at mixing with people and she’s not streetwise. But she deserves to be punished.
“I don’t know what her fixation is against me but we’ve been divorced for years so she should be over it by now.
“I still don’t know where my son’s ashes are and I’ll never know.
“It’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.
“She’ll be out after two months. I’m glad to see her punished. You can’t go round doing things like that.
“You get two years for bigamy and what she did was even worse.”