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May 13, 2009 at 6:30 AM
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Hearse keys taken by rival undertaker

MIDDLESBROUGH, England, May 13 (UPI) -- A British undertaker has pleaded guilty to stealing the keys from a rival company's hearse while it was sitting outside of a funeral.

David Wood, 48, of Middlesbrough, England, admitted to stealing the keys from a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI owned by Joel D. Kerr funeral service moments before it was scheduled to transport a body from a funeral to the cemetery in September, The Daily Mail reported.

"The level of disrespect is unbelievable, dreadful," said Irene Jessop, funeral director at Joel Kerr.

Jessop said the deceased woman, Patricia Thorburn, had specifically requested the vintage hearse. She said funeral home employees hot-wired the car instead of calling for a replacement vehicle.

Wood, who told authorities the funeral home had been "poaching" his business, pleaded guilty to theft.

Judge Les Spittle adjourned the case until next month for pre-sentencing reports. He told Wood to expect a community service penalty and fines to pay for the damage to the hearse.

Brit pub finds smoking 'loophole'

BARNSLEY, England, May 13 (UPI) -- The landlady of a British pub said she has found a "legal loophole" to allow her to bring back indoor smoking by opening a "smoking research center."

Kerry Fenton, 36, said one of her customers, James Martin, 40, studied The Smoke-Free Regulations 2007 and found a "legal loophole" indicating the Cutting Edge pub in Barnsley, England, could offer indoor smoking if a room in the building was classified as a "smoking research center," The Daily Mail reported.

She said the system works by allowing customers to smoke in the designated room after they fill out a research survey about their smoking habits. Fenton said the move has been a boon for business.

"Before our research center opened we were lucky to get 10 people in at a weekend and we were struggling to survive. It's certainly given business a shot in the arm and it's all in the name of research, legal and above aboard," she said.

Local authorities said they were investigating the matter.

Teddy bear barred from boarding plane

GLASGOW, Scotland, May 13 (UPI) -- A mother said her 6-year-old daughter's teddy bear was kept off a flight in Scotland by a check-in clerk who classified the doll as "excess baggage."

Amparo Peris-Bordes, 38, said she was told by the easyJet check-in clerk at the Glasgow, Scotland, airport that she would have to pay $14 to have the bear belonging to her daughter, Alba, stored with the checked luggage, The Daily Mail reported.

Peris-Bordes said she decided to mail the bear back to her Willingham, England, home after a heated discussion with the clerk.

"I was totally stunned when they said Alba couldn't have the bear in the cabin with her," she said. "I was carrying a big waterproof coat that was much bigger than the teddy and was allowed to take that on -- it was just a complete lack of common sense."

A spokesman for the airline said the company was offering to pay Peris-Bordes' postage costs.

"We have a strict baggage allowance on all our flights and this bear was not a small bear -- it could not fit into their hand baggage," he said. "However we do see that a common sense approach should have been taken and so this time we are offering to reimburse the parent concerned for postage.

"It is worth passengers considering that while we have restrictions as to size, unlike other airlines we have no restrictions on weight," he said.

Stimulus check sent to long-dead woman

BALTIMORE, May 13 (UPI) -- An 83-year-old Maryland man said he was shocked to receive a federal stimulus check addressed to his mother, who's been dead since 1967.

James Hagner, 83, of Anne Arundel County, said he opened his mail last week and was surprised to find the government check, one of millions sent to U.S. citizens on Social Security, addressed to his late mother, Rose, WBAL-TV, Baltimore, reported.

"It shocked me and I laughed all at the same time," Hagner said. "I don't even expect to get one for myself, and I get one for my mother from 43 years ago?"

Social Security Administration officials said the mid-June deadline for mailing out the checks does not leave enough time for thorough examinations of the program's records. They said an estimated 10,000 of the 52 million checks that have been mailed out were addressed to deceased people.

"I just want to keep it as a souvenir. I'll never cash it," Hagner said.

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