Wilmcote House
Body of Louise Brough found in freezer in her home in Wilmcote House, Portsmouth (google)

A man who hid the corpse of his elderly mother in a freezer to claim £5,000 in benefits, has been spared jail.

Louise Brough was found frozen solid in her nightclothes in an upright freezer in a flat in Portsmouth, last year.

Her son, Philipe, 54, of Landport, Portsmouth, admitted at Portsmouth Crown Court to preventing the lawful and decent burial of his mother's body.

The court heard he had wrapped clingfilm around the freezer and secured it with tape before covering it with a large cardboard box and hiding it behind an upright mattress.

It is believed his mother had been dead for about five months. A post-mortem examination found that she died of natural causes.

This is not a wicked or evil offence, it is an offence borne of distress, of depression, of emotional breakdown
- Booth, prosecuting

Brough fraudulently claimed a total of £5,390.04 in pension credit, state pension and attendance allowance meant for his mother, income support and carer's allowance.

Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said: "When the freezer door was opened it revealed the body of an elderly, white female who was dressed in her nightclothes.

"The body was described as being frozen solid."

Booth said there was no evidence that Brough, who suffers from depression and was caring for his mother, had been responsible for her death.

Suspicions were raised about her welfare when council staff tried to contact the pair last August to discuss work being carried out on their block of flats.

Brough initially told staff his mother had suffered a stroke and would not be able to understand the officers. Council officials later discovered his mother had not been seen for some time.

A housing officer alerted social services and police after Brough cancelled a home visit in August.

Matthew Jewell, defending, said Brough had suffered "some kind of breakdown" at the time of his mother's death.

Jewell said: "The fraud arises, as does the ongoing concealment, from his desire for things to remain as they had been.

"This is not a wicked or evil offence, it is an offence borne of distress, of depression, of emotional breakdown."

Judge Roger Hetherington said: "What is inexcusable was to embark on the elaborate course that you did, involving a considerable deception over a period of time on dealing with your mother's death in the way that you did."

Brough was handed an eight-month suspended sentence for a year and given a 12-month supervision order.