Hartlepool man cleared of stealing from corpse

Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.
Hartlepool Law Courts, incorporating Hartlepool Magistrates' Court.

A MAN has been cleared of stealing personal belongings from the body of a dad-of-three who died after a suspected drugs overdose.

Although it was agreed Alan Purves was wearing trainers and a watch and carrying a phone belonging to the late Christopher Picken, 32, Hartlepool magistrates ruled that it could not be proved whether or not there had been a pre-arranged agreement between the two parties before Mr Picken’s death.

Mr Picken was found dead at Mr Purves’ Bruce Crescent, Hartlepool home around 2.20pm on Easter Monday.

He was discovered face down on the kitchen floor with a used syringe near his hand while lying in blood and vomit.

Police attended the scene and officers noticed a tupperware box in the front room containing herbal cannabis and Mr Purves was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a controlled substance.

The 36-year-old was put in a police van and another search revealed he had tablets on him.

Officers then arrested him on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a controlled substance.

While in custody, Mr Purves’ belongings were seized, including a new pair of Reebok Classic trainers, which he was wearing at the time, a £230 iPhone, and a white Ice watch.

They were later identified by Mr Picken’s wife Cheryl as belonging to her husband.

He was charged with theft and entered a not guilty plea.

During Mr Purves’ trial, at Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court, prosecutor Louise Harrison read out a statement from Mrs Picken, in which she described not seeing her husband since 11.30pm the previous night and being told by a friend the next afternoon that he had overdosed.

The court heard that Mrs Picken went to the house in Bruce Crescent and police told her he was dead, but had not explained the circumstances.

Ms Harrison said: “Mr Purves was interviewed and made no reply when asked about the items.”

Defending, Dave Smith said there was evidence that Mr Purves was in possession of the belongings, but there was no proof of “dishonesty”.

He said the court did not know what happened in the lead-up to the death, it could not be proven whether the items were transferred before or after the death and they could have been sold or given to Mr Purves, or the items could have been traded for drugs.

Chairman of the magistrates’ bench Peter Bowes acquitted Mr Purves, saying the prosecution had not provided enough evidence to “satisfy us beyond reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt”.

No further action was taken over Mr Purves’ alleged drugs possession offences.