A WIDOWER’S home was ‘desecrated’ by thieves less than a day after he died of a broken heart.
A neighbour found former Royal Navy serviceman James Skellern, 53, slumped in an armchair at his home on Bolton Avenue, Huncoat.
Less than 24 hours later, thieves smashed their way into the house, taking two large plasma screen TVs, his wallet, five mobile phones and numerous pieces of gold jewellery and a jewellery box. Mr Skellern had been suffering from depression for 18 months after his wife, Andrea, died from cancer in 2007. His father also died shortly afterwards.
His sister-in-law Bernadette Skellern told the Observer the crime was ‘unforgivable’ and added: "I am absolutely disgusted with the lowlife who stole my brother-in-law’s belongings when he was not even cold. They have practically walked over his grave.
"I think somebody has seen all the commotion going on outside his home, realised he has died and took the opportunity to steal from him.
"It’s not about the material items they stole, it’s the principle. They desecrated his memory and that is unforgivable."
Mr Skellern worked as an engineer at Gear Aid until he took early retirement due to ill health and was also a member of Platts Social Club.
Neighbour Ann Southward, who found the body, had been keeping an eye out for Mr Skellern after he sank into depression.
She said: "It’s absolutely devastating to lose someone without their memory being walked all over. I can’t believe anybody could be so cruel.
"Me and my husband Graham have been looking out for Jim for about 18 months. We even took in his beloved boxer dog Merlin after caring for him became too much. I used to call in on Jim daily but on that Friday I just hadn’t had time to do it. It got to about 10.30pm and I just got this feeling that I should go round. When I got there he was already dead. He will be sadly missed.
"I want people to be aware of what happened and to learn that when their relatives pass away to never leave anything valuable in their homes."
Mr Skellern, who left his brother Ian, sister-in-law Bernie, son Lee, daughter Lisa and in-laws Roy and Fran, was cremated at Accrington Crematorium after a service on Tuesday.
It is thought he died from natural causes.