South West Wales

Ex-coroner William John Owen pleads guilty to £1m theft

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Media captionJohn Owen has been told a prison sentence is likely

A former Carmarthenshire coroner has admitted stealing more than £1m from a farmer's estate to keep his failing law firm afloat.

Solicitor John Owen, 79, stole the money from John Williams after being made executor of his will.

He admitted 17 charges of theft and false accounting at Newport Crown Court on Tuesday.

Judge Tom Crowther QC said Owen breached trust "of the grossest sort" and said a prison sentence was likely.

The court was told no-one knows where the money has gone after it vanished from his firm in Llandeilo.

Janet McDonald, prosecuting, said: "The deceased was a long standing client of Mr Owen and he made him the executor of his estate.

'Suspected dishonesty'

"Owen would bill for work, charging it to the estate. He would then take the money without doing any work.

"The money was then taken out of the law firm's account."

Owen, from Llandeilo, was arrested over the offences, which date back to 2003, in 2011 following an investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority after it said it had "reason to suspect dishonesty".

He also quit as coroner, a post he had held for 25 years.

Leah Pollard, defending, said: "Owen is a man of previous good character. He is currently receiving treatment for prostate cancer."

Releasing Owen on bail until sentence on 17 October, Judge Crowther said: "This was very serious, in breach of trust of the grossest sort. It seems to me that a custodial sentence is likely in this case."

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