Powys: Couple avoid immediate jail time after blocking legal burial of corpse
A POWYS couple avoided going to jail after pleading guilty to preventing a man’s legal and decent burial in the late 1970s.
Eirys Brett, 31, and his partner Mark Watson, 46, carried out the burial of Eirys’ father, Donald Brett, near his rented farmhouse for nearly 25 years in Aberedw, near Builth Wells between 12 June and August 22, 2019.
His wish was to have a pagan-style burial in a wooded area near his home.
Merthyr Crown Court heard the ‘loving’ but ‘extremely bewildered’ couple did not register their death and buried Mr Brett in a ‘sense of love and loyalty’ to honor their wishes as to how and where he wanted to be buried.
Recorder Greg Bull QC told the couple at sentencing: ‘It should be made public that you took care to bury him. It wasn’t a rushed funeral in the middle of the night in a sneaky way. The way he was buried showed that you loved him, and I take that into account.
“It looks to me like I’m going to have to hand down a jail sentence because the public demands that the dead be treated decently.”
The couple, who both live in St Harmon, near Rhayader, were handed a four-month jail sentence suspended for 12 months after pleading guilty to the charge when they appeared in court on Friday July 29.
The court was told that it was not possible to determine the day of Donald Brett’s death, but that at the time of his death he would have been 78 or had very recently turned 79. He is believed to have died on or around June 15. 2019. After the body was exhumed, the cause of death was identified as most likely chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and there may have been prostate cancer.
The prosecution said Mr Brett’s landlord last saw him with the defendants at the farm, looking very ill. The following day, it was assumed that Mr Brett had left the property to live with Eirys Brett and Mark Watson. In mid-August Mr Brett’s landlord reported him to police as a missing person and an investigation was launched. Police attended the Powys County Council Registry Office, which confirmed that Donald Brett’s death had not been recorded. Family and friends of Eirys Brett and Mark Watson have confirmed to police that the couple told them Mr Brett was dead and they buried him in the grounds.
On August 21, Eirys Brett and Mark Watson had been released as wanted by police and they were arrested. Miss Brett confirmed her father had passed away and she was ‘sorry about it all’. During an interview, they explained to the police how Donald Brett died and where they buried him.
Merthyr Crown Court heard there was ‘some care’ taken at the burial, with Mr Brett’s body found wrapped in a cotton hessian blanket with twine wrapped crosswise full length in the style of a medieval burial. There were a number of important effects at Donald Brett, including art supplies, poems and flowers.
Crown counsel said: ‘Donald Brett has proven himself to be a nonconformist in his approach to life. He lived in a unique way. He would not seek medical attention or advice unless absolutely unavoidable and if he needed treatment, he would only allow minimal intervention. This is confirmed by medical notes and statements throughout the investigation.
“The prosecution admits that Donald Brett was a strong character and the evidence showed that he was firm in expressing his wishes to the defendants about how he wanted to die and how he wished to be buried. The defendants carried out these wishes at the both out of love and loyalty to Donald Brett, but also because his wishes were in line with their own views that a person should live and receive medical care The prosecution say they were extremely misguided, but that was not not malicious.
“In the days leading up to his death, Donald Brett was undoubtedly in very poor health and in excruciating pain. They didn’t override his wishes and took him to the hospital when they should have but, again, they didn’t do it with malicious intent rather because they had erroneous and serious opinions and loyalty to Mr. Brett.
Eirys Brett’s lawyer said the 31-year-old was “particularly close” to her father.
He said: “Clearly it was something that happened out of loyalty and love. It was misguided but not motivated by anything other than love and loyalty. She has a good character. »
At sentencing recorder Greg Bull QC told the couple: ‘You are a loving couple who had to deal with the death of Miss Brett’s father from natural causes. Due to your respective lifestyles, it was hoped that he could be buried in an unconventional method.
“You chose to give him his final rights in what can only be described as a kind of pagan burial. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and makes no comment on yours. But you should have gone about it differently. You could have achieved the same goal by following the law and it’s not just where you think or where he thinks is appropriate, but where you’re allowed to bury him and register the death; that are the two things you failed to do.”
The sentences of Eirys Brett and Mark Watson were reduced from six months to four months in prison suspended for 12 months because of their guilty pleas.