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Embezzling former councillor from Perthshire had to sell home where murdered daughter’s ashes are scattered

Embezzling councillor daughter's ashes
Alice Duncan

A former Perthshire community councillor facing confiscation proceedings over a £129,000 embezzlement has had to sell the luxury house at which her murdered daughter’s ashes are scattered, a court heard.

Alice Duncan is facing action under the Proceeds of Crime Act after milking the money from a frail elderly aunt whom she had invited into her Perthshire home.

Duncan, 73, was ordered last year to pay £109,000 in compensation to the aunt, Jean Rossel, 94.

Another £20,000 had, by then, already been repaid.

Duncan, of Strathyre, Perthshire, was found guilty by a jury in 2019 of the embezzlement. Sentence has been deferred for replayment.

On Wednesday, Falkirk Sheriff Court was told the Crown is seeking another £57,000 from Duncan, alleged to be ill-gotten gains from her crime.

Murdered daughter

The court heard that in a cruel twist, in April 2014, Duncan’s daughter, Elaine Duncan, 46, was murdered in Newmilns, Ayrshire, by her abusive partner James Morely – later jailed for life – who battered her to death with a saucepan.

Her solicitor Euan Gosney asked for a postponement of a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which had been set for later this month because selling the last resting place of her tragic daughter’s cremated remains had shaken Duncan’s already-fragile mental state.

He said he had concerns about Duncan’s health and her ability to provide instructions and give evidence if the hearing went ahead as planned.

He said: “In 2014 her daughter was murdered.

“That enough might have been the reason for her decreased mental health but there have been further difficulties – the property over which her daughter’s ashes were scattered required to be sold in terms of raising the funds for payment of the compensation order so there’s been a marked downturn in her mental health.”

Mr Gosney said a psychiatric report on Duncan had already revealed she suffered from depression, anxiety and symptoms of ME.

Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC set new dates.

Took over financial affairs

Last year, the court was told the sale of Duncan’s home in Keip Road, Strathyre – to the far west of Perthshire – had raised nearly £246,500.

Duncan’s victim Mrs Rossel moved ten years ago from the south of England to Perthshire, where Duncan was a respected member of Strathyre Community Council.

The jury heard Mrs Rossel and her husband Frans had kept a shop in Sussex for 34 years but after they retired they accepted an offer from Duncan, Mrs Rossel’s brother’s daughter, to live with her and her husband.

After selling their bungalow in England, they would move into a purpose-built extension.

Mr Rossel never made it to the Duncans’ home because he was deemed too frail and he went straight into a care home in nearby Callander, where he eventually died.

Mrs Rossel also went initially into the nursing home, where Duncan turned up with two solicitors “and it was discussed that she’d be taking over” her financial affairs.

Mrs Rossel said in evidence: “Alice had charge of my pension book. Because I trusted her I didn’t take any observations at all of what was going on – I was just happy to be knitting and doing crosswords.”

Stole funeral funds

After Frans died in October 2014 and the undertaker’s bill arrived, Mrs Rossel found all the money from the sale of their bungalow had gone, together with other savings and there was not even anything accumulated from her pension.

Bonds she and her husband had bought to cover the cost of their funerals were also cashed in by Duncan.

Mrs Rossel said: “I was shattered, absolutely shattered. What could I say to her? She’d just helped herself to everything that was mine.

“It was very embarrassing that I couldn’t pay the funeral directors for my husband’s cremation.”

Social workers called in police.

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