Man kept wife’s death secret for days and slept next to naked corpse

An alcoholic who kept his wife’s death a secret for several days while sleeping next to her naked rotting corpse and using her bank card has been jailed.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of David Vernon after he failed to attend a sentencing hearing at Gloucester Crown Court.

Homeless Vernon, who lives in a tent, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to preventing the lawful and decent burial of his wife Kelly Davis.

Vernon failed to show for his hearing despite mourning members of Kelly’s family making their way to the sentencing from the Isle of Wight.

The court heard he had gone on as normal after Ms Davis died – even sleeping next to her naked decomposing body.

Vernon even used his dead wife bank card to buy tobacco and booze as her rotting remains remained back at their home.

He kept her death secret for four days until her father became suspicious.

Vernon, who is now homeless and living in a tent in Cheltenham, had been married to her for three-and-a-half years.

He had subjected her to domestic abuse during their relationship and when her body was found he was arrested on suspicion of murder but later released without charge.

Prosecutor Janine Wood said Vernon had once hit her with a hammer and on another occasion tried to strangle her.

She said Kelly’s father grew suspicious something had happened after he received a text message purporting to be from his daughter.

She explained that when Vernon was last released from prison for breaching a restraining order against his wife he went and stayed with her at her home in Aldridge Close, Cheltenham, at the end of May 2019.

By that date the court order banning him from contact with her had elapsed.

Mrs Wood said: "On June 3, 2019, Vernon spoke to the shopkeeper of the local store and told him that his wife had died that day. The shopkeeper remembered the incident well as Vernon appeared not to be drunk, but stank of urine.

"On June 6, two women probation officers attended the address and they initially received no response when they knocked on the door.

"But while they were shouting through the letter box they noticed a putrid smell coming from within.

"Vernon then answered the door and asked the women, 'Do you want to see a dead body? She has been dead for three or four days'.

"The pair called the police and the paramedics who pronounced her dead at the scene."

The court was told that Kelly's body had started rotting and a post mortem revealed that she had a number of fractures to her ribs.

Her death was recorded as being due to the complications of chronic alcohol abuse.

Mrs Wood said Vernon had plenty of opportunities to report Kelly's death.

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She said: "He was using her bank card in the shop, he could have told them to contact the police.

"He lived in an area surrounded by telephone kiosks and the hospital itself is only a short walk away."

The court was told that when Vernon was arrested he said Kelly had died three days earlier and that he had slept next to her when she was dead.

Kelly’s grieving father Norman Davis said he used to phone his daughter every day.

He said: "But when I received text messages I became increasing concerned as to what had happened to her as we did not communicate in this way. I even contacted the local hospitals in vain.

"On June 6 my worst suspicions were realised when the police contacted me to tell me that Kelly had died.

"Kelly was an alcoholic who tried hard to fight her illness and embarked on a course of rehabilitation.

"Two women, who also received alcohol treatment, spoke to me at Kelly's funeral and revealed what an inspiration she had been to them. Unfortunately Kelly was unable to do that for herself.

"In reality she died sober, while her husband lived it up by using her bank card, smoking and buying whisky.

"What concerns me the most is that Vernon did not make the effort to call the emergency services when she fell ill or when she had died."

Judge Michael Cullum said: “Kelly was 41 when she died. I never got to meet her so I am grateful to her father for explaining some of the missing details in her life.

“Her last few years were clearly unhappy in that she died in such squalid circumstances, which she didn't want her father to see.

“I am sentencing Vernon in his absence. He leads a chaotic life. As has been pointed out there is no real alternative to prison.

“[Kelly] probably died some four days before her body was discovered, by which time her body was decomposing, depriving her of a decent burial. He didn't even cover her up and left her naked.”

The judge sentenced Vernon to 15 months in prison and issued a warrant for his arrest to be taken straight to prison.

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