Ex-mining union boss facing jail for charity theft

Neil Greatrex
Neil Greatrex

THE DISGRACED former boss of a mining union has been found guilty of stealing almost £150,000 from a charity that ran a care home for sick and elderly pitmen.

Neil Greatrex (60) is the ex-president of the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM), which was set up in 1985 as a breakaway union for rebel pitmen defying the bitter miners’ strike called by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), led by Arthur Scargill.

Mr Greatrex represented colliery workers from the Dispatch district. But now the married father-of-two, of Shepherds Lane, Sutton-in-Ashfield, is facing jail after being unanimously convicted by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court of 14 counts of theft between June 2000 and May 2006.

Co-defendant and former UDM general secretary Mick Stevens (60), of May Lodge Drive, Rufford Park, Newark, was acquitted of all 14 counts of theft that he faced.

The court heard that Greatrex stole from the Nottinghamshire Miners Home Charity, which ran a care home at the seaside resort of Chapel St Leonards, Lincolnshire.

He also took money from a subsidiary, Phoenix Nursing and Residential Home Ltd.

Greatrex and Mr Stevens were trustees of the miners’ home charity and directors of Phoenix.

The court heard that Greatrex used the cash to pay for improvements to his own home, including a luxury £11,000 kitchen at his former bungalow on Chestnut Grove, Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

When he gave evidence in court, he claimed he was ‘entitled’ to the money and that the kitchen was in lieu of a salary for his work with Phoenix.

Invoices for the work at Greatrex’s home were submitted to the charity and Phoenix but appeared to be for upgrades at the care home, including new windows and a lift.

But the thefts came to light because contractors revealed they had never visited the Chapel St Leonards site.

Judge John Wait told Greatrex: “You have been convicted of a series of serious thefts and I can see only one possible sentence. That is prison.”

He added that because of Greatrex’s age and previous good character, pre-sentence reports from the probation service would be needed.

was released on conditional bail. Sentencing will take place in three weeks’ time, on a date to be announced.

After the verdict, Graham Wragg, economic crime officer with South Yorkshire Police, said: “Greatrex was head of the UDM and was stealing money from the charity set up to look after the wellbeing of sick and elderly miners.

“They put him in a position of trust and he stole from them. He made no comment during interviews and showed no remorse for what he had done.”

Greatrex was a founder member of the Mansfield-based UDM, which represented many colliery workers who chose to remain at the coalface during the miners’ strike of the mid-1980s.

The nursing home was sold in 2007 and is now a residential home for disabled patients. But Bassetlaw Labour MP John Mann wants the UDM to re-open the venue as a miners’ convalescent home. He has also called on Greatrex to issue an apology and to pay back the money he stole.

Until retiring in 2009, Greatrex earned £67,000 a year as president of the UDM and also had his mortgage partly paid. But at the time of the allegations, his total annual salaries amounted to £110,000 because he received more money as national president of the union, as trustee of a pension scheme and as director of a claims company.

The actions of Greatrex have been slammed by the Charity Commission, which branded the thefts “absolutely unacceptable”.