A "BRAZEN" scrap metal dealer found guilty of taking in stolen metal, including crematorium plaques which he cut up into pieces to disguise them, has been sentenced to 15 months in jail.
Joseph Collier, 72, of Woodhall Drive, Dulwich, was given the sentence at Isleworth Crown Court this morning (Monday) after he was found guilty on October 1 at Croydon Crown Court.
Police raided Collier's DSM Scrap Metal Yard in Bensham Lane, Croydon in May 2012 after a tip-off from Croydon Trading Standards officers, where they discovered a stolen bronze dragon and a statue of Jesus.
They also found several bags and boxes containing hundreds of memorial plaques that had been stolen from cemeteries across the south east, some marked with SmartWater - a liquid that has a unique forensic 'code' that allows police to trace their origin.
Officers from Croydon then spent several hours painstakingly piecing the plaques back together to help trace them.
They also found CCTV footage showing Collier overseeing the cutting up of the plaques - which he claimed at court he had no knowledge of.
View Collier's own CCTV footage below:
In March 2013, police, who were suspicious Collier was continuing to receive stolen goods while on bail before his trial, and UK Power Networks staged an undercover operation where an officer sold copper wiring to him - stamped with UK Power Networks - making it obvious to Collier the goods were stolen as he was accepting it.
After the sentencing, Sergeant George Shannon, who led the investigation, said: "I can only describe Collier's attitude throughout this whole process as brazen. He tried to deny any knowledge of receiving stolen items, but some of the memorial plaques even had the mud and wall plugs attached where they'd been prized from the graves.
"There was little doubt that he knew they were stolen and he had absolutely no regard for the law.
"His actions, in accepting stolen metal, have fuelled other criminal activity by thieves stealing metal to make a quick profit by selling it to unscrupulous scrap dealers like Collier.
"Metal theft has a huge impact on society - be it through delays on train networks or power cuts where cabling has been stolen, or the emotional effects associated with the theft of memorial plaques.
"The majority of registered scrap metal dealers are operating correctly, but we will continue to target those who don't and will bring the full force of the law against them.
"He will now be behind bars for several months and the next phase of our investigation will be looking at action we can take under the Proceeds of Crime Act to confiscate any assets Collier has gained through his criminal activity."
Footage of police officers discovering the stolen crematorium plaques:
Collier was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for possession of the stolen memorial plaques.
He also received three months for possession of a stolen bronze dragon statue, possession of a stolen statue of Christ and for disguising criminal property, all to be served concurrently.
He was given an additional three months for attempting to receive stolen goods.