The discovery of a hole in a fence at the Buckinghamshire home of Cilla Black has helped to foil an alleged plot to burgle the property during her funeral, according to her publicist.
Black’s former publicist has revealed that a professionally cut circular hole was found in the chain link perimeter fence of the later entertainer's home in Denham on Friday, ahead of her funeral on Thursday 20 August.
The damage to the fence came to light as Black’s three sons, Ben, Robert, and Jack, gathered for an inquest into their mother’s death in her home town of Liverpool.
Robert Willis, her eldest son, said: “I cannot believe someone would stoop so low at a time like this. It's inconceivable. Thankfully it was discovered in time.”
Police have since been alerted of the incident, which has prompted a 24-hour security at the property to be increased.
Valuables previously stored at the home, including art, jewellery and other personal items, have been removed from the property and taken to a secured unit at an unknown location.
Nick Fiveash, Black’s former publicist, said: “It looks as if they have been preparing to burgle the house during the funeral.”
He added that the hole was cut in a “very secluded place and it was not there before.”
"It's a difficult time, today was the inquest and next will be the funeral. Her sons have been really brave and dignified and are carrying on for their mum."
On Friday, Liverpool Coroner's Court heard that Black died from a "traumatic" head injury following a fall at her home in Spain.
Cilla Black: Career in pictures
Cilla Black: Career in pictures
Black used to perform at Liverpool music venue The Cavern in the early 1960s. The Beatles also performed there (John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Image)
John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Image
Performing at Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1965 (Rex Features)
Black starred alongside David Warner in 'Love is a Four Letter Word' in 1968 (Rex Features)
With Burt Bacharach on the Burt Bacharach Show in 1972 (Rex Features)
Black performing on the 'The Cilla Black Show' (Rex Features)
Black hosted Surprise Surprise from 1984 to 2001 (Rex Features)
She hosted dating show Blind Date from 1985 to 2003 (Rex Features)
She took to the stage with Lily Savage and Barbara Windsor at the Royal Variety Performance in 2001 (Rex Features)
She released her book, 'What's it all about?' in 2003 (ShowBizIreland.com/Getty Images)
She walked the runway at the Fashion for Relief show at London Fashion Week in 2008 (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
She attended the Arqiva British Academy Television Awards at Theatre Royal in May last year (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Coroner Andre Rebello recorded a verdict of accidental death.
He said: ”I understand Mrs Willis was discovered by her son Robert at 5.30pm on August 1 this year.
"She was on the terrace leading from her bedroom at her home. She had fallen and she had struck her head, and this traumatic head injury which had ensued had resulted in her death.”
A funeral will be held for the singer at St Mary's Church, Woolton. She will then be laid to rest in a private ceremony at Allerton Cemetery alongside her parents.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content