'Callous, thoughtless and cruel': Man kept friend's decomposing body in his house without informing police as distraught relatives desperately tried to find him

A man who lived with his friend's composing body in his house for eight days without informing police has been sent to prison over his "callous, thoughtless and cruel" actions.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 7:36 am

Mark Sheldon found Gareth Oldroyd dead on the sofa at his house in Wakefield after they had spent the evening taking drugs.

A court heard Sheldon and his housemate, Martin Webley, failed to contact emergency services as they did not want to get into trouble.

They covered Mr Oldroyd's body with a blanket and continued to live in a bedroom at the house on Esther Grove, Lupset, after moving the TV out of the living room.

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Esther Grove, Lupset

Leeds Crown Court heard Sheldon failed to raise the alarm despite Mr Oldroyd's distraught relatives making a missing person report to the police.

Police were eventually contacted by another of Sheldon's friends who became suspicious and challenged the defendant over his behaviour.

Sheldon confessed to the man that Mr Oldroyd was dead in the living room.

James Lake, prosecuting, said officers went to the house on December 30, 2018, where they noticed a strong smell and found Mr Oldroyd's body "in an advanced state of decomposition."

Mr Lake said it appeared as though Sheldon and Mr Webley had continued to live at the property as there were left over meals and drinks in the kitchen.

Sheldon, 51, was jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to an offence of preventing a lawful and decent burial.

The prosecutor said Mr Webley would have been facing the same charge but has since died from a drug overdose.

Mr Lake added: "This was an offence that was callous, thoughtless and cruel, in particular to the family of the person who died."

Mr Oldroyd's father, Martin, provided a victim statement to the court describing how Sheldon's actions meant they were unable to grieve properly following the death.

Mr Lake said: "He cannot understand why Mr Webley and this defendant did not make any attempt to inform the police or call the ambulance and instead left a body to decompose.

"He and his family were unable to see Gareth after his death or visit him at a chapel of rest."

Martin's statement continued: "We do not feel we have been able to grieve his passing away.

"I am told that they panicked, but my personal thoughts were that they were just selfish and thinking about themselves."

The court heard 29-year-old Mr Oldroyd leaves behind a three-year-old daughter.

He had previous struggles with drug addiction but his family believed he had been making good progress turning his life around.

Mr Oldroyd had been working in a warehouse for seven months prior to his death.

Mr Lake said Mr Oldroyd went to Sheldon's house on December 21, 2018, after receiving his Christmas bonus.

The three men spent the evening taking heroin and cocaine.

Mr Oldroyd slept on the sofa where Sheldon found him dead the next day.

His family reported him missing on December 23 when he failed to come home.

The court heard Mr Oldroyd's phone may have been hacked as his family noticed that there had been some activity on his Facebook page on December 28.

Mr Oldroyd said his father rang his son's phone but the device was switched off and has never been recovered.

A toxicology report stated that a combination of drugs taken by Mr Oldroyd may have been fatal.

A post mortem did not reveal any injuries to his body.

Satpal Roth-Sharma, mitigating, said Sheldon had suffered a stroke since the incident and had little recollection of what happened as it had affected his memory.

Miss Roth-Sharma said: "It is a sad set of circumstances.

"He realises now the anguish and upset he has caused.

"He said the deceased arrived with around £100 worth of drugs which were shared among the three of them.

"He states that when he did discover the deceased was in fact dead he panicked immediately and did not want to go back to prison.

"He says that he foolishly and selfishly put his feelings before anybody else."