VICTIMS who were left thousands of pounds out of pocket after being caught in a sick plot by a West Fife undertaker cheered in court as he finally confessed his guilt.

Barry Stevenson-Hamilton, 40, director of Stevenson Funeral Directors Ltd, which had premises in Rosyth, and Funeral (Care) Scotland Ltd, admitted to obtaining more than £130,000 by fraud at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court.

Staff discovered in September 2019 that he had been taking money from customers for pre-paid funeral plans but the plans were never set up and he pocketed the cash instead.

Susan Mitchell, 57, from Rosyth, said there was a “round of applause” in court as he admitted his guilt, after she and others who had been duped were left waiting three years for a result.

“It had been delayed and delayed and delayed, I was in shock,” she explained.

Susan’s father, William Mathewson, 86, had paid Stevenson-Hamilton more than £4,000 to cover the costs of his wife’s funeral in May 2019, just months before the con came to light.

He had made out a cheque to the firm which was originally declined before being accepted on the grounds it was made out to the business owner himself.

When the news broke Susan contacted the police, who discovered that, despite a funeral being held for her 93-year-old mother, Christina Mathewson, none of the funds paid had gone towards it.

While she called the experience “emotional”, she said her father took a more “matter-of-fact” approach to the situation, taking comfort in the fact that they had been able to hold a service, while still slamming the “disgusting and despicable” funeral director who conned them out of their cash.

Susan was in court for each appearance, along with others who had also been defrauded, as well as undertaker Sarah Yorke, who had worked for Stevenson-Hamilton and had originally informed police.

“I wanted to see justice done,” she told the Press. “My mum had died, we were happy with her funeral, but it did taint it.

“At the time we thought it was strange but we never had a doubt, I can’t believe someone would stoop so low, he has frittered that money away.”

Though he had not been personally responsible for her mother’s funeral, which Susan says she was “grateful” for, she had met Stevenson-Hamilton several times during the organisation.

She said that she was in “disbelief” when she was told what he had done.

“He came across as if he couldn’t do enough for you,” Susan said.

She had even personally congratulated him when the company was recognised as Scotland’s Best Funeral Director by the Scottish Funeral Awards in 2019, a title which has since been revoked.

And she wasn’t the only one who was taken in by the conman with another victim, Beatrice Russell, describing him as “genuine and friendly”.

The 78-year-old had taken out a plan with the firm after volunteering at a nearby shop for several years.

She said she had met Stevenson-Hamilton on many occasions, and that he had even told her he was giving her a discount on her cover.

Beatrice explained that when she had gone to pay by card, he had informed her, openly, in front of others, that the machine was broken, and she would have to give him cash.

She took more than £2,000 out of her bank account and handed it over.

“Initially I was disbelieving,” she said, on finding out what had happened.

“I felt, ‘You selfish b*****d’, I knew him well, I felt betrayed and let-down, I don’t know anyone who got their money back.

“I was devastated, for that to be done to an ordinary working class family, those were savings to see my son in South Africa. I asked why it was cheap, he said he was giving me a discount, I was grateful.”

Inverkeithing couple Sheila and Michael Baines had also used up their savings to pay for funeral plans, they lost £6,800 to the scam.

“I was sick,” Sheila told the Press. “It was money we had saved up, we thought it was all sorted.

“It was only once we sat down and thought about it we said ‘What do you do?’ That’s it gone.”

The pair had gone into the funeral directors to set up the plans, though when they had asked to pay by card, the staff member had told them that she needed to call a separate office, where they would take Sheila’s card details.

Since finding out that they had been conned, the couple haven’t taken out a further plan, after being “put off” by the scam.

“I try not to think about it because I get angry,” Sheila, 74, added. “It is a stressful thing. It makes you angry that he has enjoyed that money that was for our funerals and now our kids will have to pay for it.

“I have cried a lot in the quiet. We don’t know what is going to happen. Some people have already died and their families have been stuck.”

Each victim was given false assurances that their plans were in place, and even received fake letters seemingly confirming what they had paid for.

John Norman, 72, from Rosyth, had paid £2,700 in cash to the business, believing that he was securing a plan for his 91-year-old mother-in-law, just months before the plot was uncovered.

“I don’t know how a person could do that,” he told the Press. “I never had an inkling that he would do that.”

John was forced to fork out a second time for a plan from Co-op Funeralcare, despite never receiving his money back.

“My son had just passed away in the November before, and then my mother-in-law was about to go, it was a shock,” he added.

“I don’t want to see him, I would just shout at him, I have no time for the man.

“There is not a lot I can say, it was diabolical, a terrible thing.”

He retained the notice he was given by Stevenson Funeral Directors, which seemed to confirm that on March 7, 2019, a plan, which cost £2,705 including “third party disbursement charges” had been set up.

Stevenson-Hamilton was also named as the plan manager.

He has now pleaded guilty to obtaining £130,207 by fraud between January 20, 2016, and September 12, 2019, in court last week.

More than 60 people who had paid in advance for funeral plans were affected according to police.

A GoFundMe, organised by Susan Mitchell, has now been set up to help those who were left short, you can find out more and donate here: