Damion Johnson, 53, had been long-term friends with John Wainwright for 27 years. The pair shared a flat together in Birmingham until Wainwright died at 71 years old. Johnson, it seemed, was not ready to let go of their ‘strong friendship’: he stored Wainwright’s body in a freezer in their apartment for two years as he was ‘overcome with grief’.
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At least, this is the tale Johnson told Derby Crown Court once he was faced with criminal action over preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body and three counts of fraud. So, maybe there was more behind his motivation than him struggling with bereavement. Here’s the disturbing story of how the body was discovered, and what we know about Johnson’s actions.
The story behind the body in the freezer
The men moved in together back in 2015 and Johnson was actually Wainwright’s registered carer. It turns out that Wainwright passed in 2018, but his body was not discovered until 2020 - and bizarrely, this didn’t happen within the flat.
According to Johnson, the older man was like a father to him. When he passed, Johnson said he was distraught and incapable of ‘thinking rationally’. Time passed, but he found himself ‘unable to inform the authorities’. Instead, he found a way to buy himself time: he paid £462 for a chest freezer and placed his friend’s body inside it. Meanwhile, the younger man informed all of Wainwright’s friends and family that he was dead and the funeral had already happened.
Johnson’s actions and involvement
Johnson was arrested in December 2019 for unrelated charges, and the flat was boarded up along with the freezer. However, it was left unplugged. As you can imagine, after a while the body started to smell but workers who came to perform safety checks on the empty property assumed the odour came from rotting food - not flesh. The flat was duly emptied in August 2020 and the freezer wound up at Budget Skips Services Ltd in Exhall, Warwickshire. Staff discovered the decomposing body.
According to the BBC:
A post-mortem examination noted signs of blunt force trauma, but could not conclude how Mr Wainwright died.
What’s more, the court was told that Johnson has used the deceased bank account after his death. Raglan Ashton, who was mitigating, stated that the pair had an ‘informal agreement’ that either could continue to use a joint account in the event of the other’s death.
The Judge on the case, Judge Shaun Smith KC, said it was an ‘unusual offence’ to prevent a burial, but didn’t suspect that the younger man has any suspicious involvement in Wainwright’s death.
The defendant was sentenced to two years in jail.
BBC: Man who kept friend's body in freezer for two years jailed
The Guardian: Derby man who stored friend’s body in freezer jailed for two years