Funeral worker steals family headstone cash

Arlene Newbigging. Picture: Lesley MartinArlene Newbigging. Picture: Lesley Martin
Arlene Newbigging. Picture: Lesley Martin
A HEARTLESS funeral worker who once swindled £36,000 from vulnerable bank customers has been found guilty of stealing another £2000 – this time from a bereaved family.

But Arlene Newbigging, of Bonnyrigg, who was given community service five years ago for fraud, has been spared jail again.

The shameless 48-year-old took money paid by grief-stricken Celia Doran for the funeral of her 80-year-old mother, Margaret Watt.

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Newbigging – then in charge of Barclays Funeral Directors in Bonnyrigg – embezzled £1957.84 between December 2012 and February 2013 from the family’s funeral account.

Bosses at Dignity Funerals Ltd, which runs Barclays, launched a probe after receiving an anonymous letter outlining her previous convictions and Newbigging – previously known as Arlene Wales – was suspended and later sacked.

The investigation uncovered cash discrepancies at the branch and, in a witness statement sent to the Crown, the firm said Newbigging had submitted a false CV to conceal her criminal history.

Sheriff Frank Crowe imposed a three-month curfew on Friday, ordering her to remain in her Brixwold Drive home between 9pm and 6am.

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She was also ordered to repay Dignity the full £1957.84 at a rate of £100 a month.

The sheriff warned Newbigging that if she breached these terms she could face a jail sentence.

Fiona Doran, Mrs Watt’s 39-year-old granddaughter, said she had wanted Newbigging to be jailed for “as long as possible” and described the sentence as “disappointing”.

“How can you embezzle thousands of pounds, get a community order, commit embezzlement again and get a tag for three months?” she said.

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“That’s not justice. She has done it before and she should have gone down for it. My grandmother would have been horrified by what happened.”

A spokesperson for Dignity Funerals Ltd said: “We were shocked and dismayed when we discovered the criminal activities of Arlene Newbigging.

“She was employed in a position of trust and took advantage of vulnerable, recently bereaved clients at one of the worst times in their lives.

“We received an anonymous letter informing us that when she was known as Arlene Wales, she had been found guilty of embezzlement in 2010 when working at a bank. We suspended her from her duties and she was dismissed following our disciplinary processes.

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“When applying for the job she had changed her name and falsified information and references on her CV so that her career history could not be checked following usual recruitment procedures.

“We provided the police with our evidence and have assisted them at every stage of the 
prosecution. It was also our priority to make personal contact with the families concerned, to apologise and to make sure they were not financial disadvantaged by making good on our obligations regarding the purchases of the funeral plan and headstone.”

When she worked for Lloyds TSB, Newbigging stole more than £36,000 from customers including a dead man, a disabled elderly couple and one of her own neighbours.

She took the money while working at branches in Dalkeith and Cameron Toll between November 2004 and May 2007, using it to fund her lavish lifestyle while hiding behind a £90,000 credit card debt.

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