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Funeral Fraud: Jailed Fife undertaker’s criminal past revealed as devastated victims speak out

Barry Stevenson-Hamilton was jailed for 33 months.
Barry Stevenson-Hamilton was jailed for 33 months.

Conman undertaker Barry Stevenson-Hamilton made a small fortune selling fake funeral plans to dozens of unsuspecting Fife families.

His six-year scam was only exposed after his own employees became suspicious.

The crook was this week jailed for 33 months for orchestrating a £130,000 fraud through branches of his award-winning firm Stevenson Funeral Directors.

In this exclusive report, we reveal the 40-year-old’s hidden criminal history.

We hear from victims who were left in tears by trusted Stevenson-Hamilton’s deception.

And we speak to the employee who exposed her boss’s wrong-doing and helped bring him to justice.

False representation

Our investigation has uncovered that Barry Stevenson-Hamilton falsely represented himself as a qualified nurse at the height of the Covid pandemic.

It is a criminal breach of the Nursing and Widwifery Order 2001.

The offence came weeks after he was arrested and appeared from custody in connection with Fife police’s fraud probe.

And it is despite Stevenson-Hamilton being described at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court – ahead of sentencing – as a “first offender”.

He was also suspended by a second care group – after registering with them as a carer – following an “incident” in early 2021.

Barry Stevenson-Hamilton at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court

According to court papers, Stevenson-Hamilton – under the alias Barry Fisher – did “with intent to deceive” falsely represented himself to be a registered nurse on January 14 2021.

This was more than a year after detectives had launched a probe into his funeral business.

He pled guilty to the offence at Hamilton Sheriff Court in March this year.

It is understood Stevenson-Hamilton tried to pass himself off as a registered professional to leading care sector employer H1 Healthcare.

But his bid was thwarted when bosses checked his background.

The charge sheet shows that “Barry Fisher” shares the same date of birth and home address – in Edinburgh’s Old Dalkeith Road – as Stevenson-Hamilton.

Stevenson-Hamilton falsely claimed to be a registered nurse to H1 Healthcare

At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Thursday, just minutes before his sentencing, he was described by a defence lawyer as a “first offender”. The lawyer alluded to a conviction from March but said they had no information about it.

A spokesperson for H1 Healthcare said: “Barry Fisher claimed that he was a registered Nurse returning to the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) register as he did not revalidate on time.

“Barry made attempts to deceive H1 in to believing he was a registered Nurse. Following H1’s vetting checks, Barry’s nurse application was rejected.

“All our nurses go through rigorous compliance checks prior to commencing work as we take our job to supply good quality staff very seriously.

“Barry Fisher did not work with H1 Healthcare as a Registered Nurse.”

Suspended as a carer

A spokesperson for another care platform, Florence, said Stevenson-Hamilton had registered with them as a carer but was suspended from their platform in March 2021 following an investigation into an “incident”.

The spokesperson said the Scottish Social Services Council was alerted and he was no longer able to work for Florence.

The Scottish Social Services offices at Compass House in Dundee.

A SSSC spokesperson said: “We are aware of the allegations and the individual concerned is currently subject to a Temporary Suspension Order, which means they cannot work in their registered role.

“If it’s found their fitness to practise is impaired and a sanction is put on their registration, we’ll publish this on our website in line with our Public Information Policy.”

How we revealed the police probe into Stevenson Funeral Directors in October 2019.

Deceit left victims in tears

A Fife pensioner recalled bursting into tears as she told her husband they’d lost nearly £7,000 to Stevenson-Hamilton.

Inverkeithing couple Sheila and Michael Baines were left “numb” after police confirmed they’d been sent bogus paperwork from the crook after purchasing what they thought were legitimate prepaid funeral plans.

Sheila and Michael Baines.

Speaking after his sentencing, Mrs Baines said she was “sickened” that he wasn’t jailed for longer.

The 74-year-old said: “I try not to think about it because I get angry, but this court case it’s brought it all back.

“There’s nothing we can do about getting our money back.

“Every now and then, maybe friends pass away and you read about it in the paper and think about what he has done. He is just a rat.”

‘I was just numb’

Mrs Baines said she and her husband, 80, went to the firm’s Rosyth office in March 2018 to arrange their funeral packages and paid £6,900.

The pair, who met in the RAF in their youth and have been married for 54 years, were told they’d need to give card details over the phone to someone in another office to complete the payment.

About three weeks later they received paperwork containing their policy details with the Stevenson name printed on it.

In late 2019, police arrived at the couple’s door and Mrs Baines showed them their paperwork.

Stevenson Funeral Directors held an event in June 2019 to launch their new branch in Cowdenbeath.

Officers told her the documentation was invalid as it should have been from Avalon, a company which sells prepaid funeral plans either directly to members of the public or through arrangements with third parties such as undertakers.

Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard previously that the plans from Avalon are designed to give customers peace of mind that their money is with a trustee in the event of their chosen funeral directors going under or cases of allegiance changing.

Stevenson-Hamilton retained the money for himself instead of making Avalon aware and transferring funds to them.

Mrs Baines, who previously worked at a munitions depot in Crombie, said: “I was just shocked. After the police went away, I was on my own as my husband was at the darts. When he got back home I burst into tears. I was just numb.

“We had saved up for that and got our Wills and Powers of Attorney done as well.”

Dad ‘nearly died’ from stroke

Christina and Edward Plant, of Cardenden, were swindled out of nearly £3,000 by the fraudster.

Their daughter, Tina McLean, told us how doctors said they didn’t know if her father would make it after suffering a major stroke which she believes was brought on by the stress of losing the money.

Christina Plant, 76, and Tina McLean, 45, from Cardenden.

Mr and Mrs Plant used their savings for a one-off payment for Edward’s prepaid funeral package in April 2018.

Tina said her father started suffering strokes about 11 years ago and wanted to put funeral arrangements in place.

She said the family were sent apparently legitimate paperwork which was stowed away until they were later contacted by police, who established it was fake.

Edward Plant.

Tina said: “I was gutted because £3,000 is a lot of money for pensioners to lose.

“My dad took a dip in health after it. He was in and out of hospital.

“He had strokes before it but it started getting worse because of it, definitely.

“It was touch and go at one point.

“He was sent for when he was in hospital.

“He was taken there due to a stroke and when in hospital, he took another big stroke.

“Doctors told us they did not know if he would get through that.”

Whistleblower was ‘abandoned’ by friends

The court heard previously that Stevenson-Hamilton’s bogus plans were uncovered by staff who worked for the firm and eventually challenged him.

Sarah Yorke, the firm’s principal funeral director at the time, became suspicious after a colleague said a family had been in touch questioning the funeral plan paperwork.

Sarah Yorke with Barry Stevenson-Henderson.

She then examined funeral plan folders in Rosyth and Kirkcaldy and discovered original application forms for the plans were still there.

They should have been sent to Avalon.

The 40-year-old said she spent time copying those originals, as well as copying payment receipts and fake Stevenson certificates which were sent out to clients in place of the correct Avalon paperwork.

Sarah Yorke attended Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court for her former boss’s sentencing.

Mrs Yorke contacted police and Dunfermline CID investigated. They contacted witnesses named in documentation.

Speaking to The Courier after his sentencing, she said she was “disappointed and angry” he wasn’t jailed for longer and believes the case should have been transferred to the High Court.

She says she is still owed about two-and-a-half months wages from Stevenson-Hamilton and that she was forced to use her credit card to pay the bills during that period.

She also described the process of gathering evidence and contacting police about the fraud as “one of the most difficult periods of her life”.

Mrs Yorke, of Kincardine, said she lost friendships with people in the industry over what happened and felt “abandoned” by them.

She said: “I was absolutely devastated.

“I’ve had not contact with them three years on and the damage has been irreplaceable.”