Man admits keeping flatmate’s body in freezer for two years but denies fraud

A man accused of having kept his flatmate’s body in a freezer while he used the dead man’s bank cards has pleaded guilty to preventing a lawful and decent burial, but denied three counts of fraud.

Damion Johnson, 52, shared a flat in central Birmingham with John Wainwright until the older man’s death from unknown causes at the age of 71 in 2018.

At Derby Crown Court, earlier today, Johnson pleaded guilty to preventing Wainwright’s lawful and decent burial.

But he has denied three counts of fraudulently using money belonging to the deceased to withdraw cash and pay for goods.

Johnson and Wainwright lived at a flat in Cleveland Tower, Holywell Head, in Birmingham city centre. Wainwright’s body was not discovered in the freezer until August 2020 – some two years after his death.

Appearing before Judge Shaun Smith KC, Derby's most senior judge, Johnson admitted preventing the lawful and decent burial of a dead body between September 1, 2018 and August 22, 2020.

However, he pleaded not guilty to three additional charges of fraud, relating to the use of Wainwright's bank card on repeated occasions to pay for goods, using the same to card withdraw money from ATMs, and the transfer of funds from Wainwright’s bank account to his own.

Asked by Judge Shaun Smith KC what his client’s defence to the fraud charges was, Raglan Ashton, defending, said: “He says he was not acting dishonestly, namely that he maintains that he was entitled to the funds in Mr Wainwright's account.

"The arrangement was that monies would be paid jointly into Mr Wainwright's account, so essentially he maintains that it was his funds in Mr Wainwright's account and in short he was entitled to them."

As he entered the dock in courtroom one, the defendant, who now lives in Derby, was asked by the dock officer if he was nervous to which he replied “terrified” before being asked to enter his pleas.

The defendant was formally dressed for his court appearance in a black and grey Las Vegas Raiders American football jacket, which he matched with midnight camo patterned trousers and deck shoes.

Judge Smith KC set a trial date of November 7, 2023, with a two-day estimate.

He has granted Johnson bail until that date.

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