HEARTLESS thieves who stole precious mementoes from the grave of a man just a fortnight before the anniversary of his death have been slammed as the scum of the earth.
This time of year is specially tough for the family and friends of Bryan James Coughlan – affectionately known as Bry – following his death on May 22, 2006.
But as this year’s anniversary looms, they have now had to suffer more pain, after making the sickening discovery that sentimental items have been snatched from his place of rest, in Amble West Cemetery.
Cruel thieves have swiped a small bible in a box with a gold-coloured crucifix, a small gold-coloured cross and chain from a card and a medium-sized heart-shaped silver mosaic mirror.
Shocked and saddened, Bry’s family have spoken of their heartache, condemning those responsible and pleading for the items to be returned.
Branding the callous act as ‘immoral’, Bry’s younger brother Martin, said: “I am furious.
“It is totally disrespectful and whoever has done it is the scum of the earth.
“If someone has died, let them rest in peace.
“We want the items returned. I hope this article shames whoever has done it into putting the stuff back or, if it has been bought, it notifies someone about where it has come from.”
Martin, 32, from the town’s High Street, fears the theft was malicious and admitted it has had a devastating impact on the family.
“I used to go there every morning but now I don’t want to go up there, just in case something has happened,” he said.
“We never really look forward to this time of year, it is always a bad time for us, but this has made it 10-times worse.”
Martin made the grim discovery last week while he was preparing the grave for the anniversary. He said he had visited three days previously and the items were still there.
The area is kept specially tidy at this time of year because Martin and Bry’s mam Sandra Totterdell makes the journey from Surrey to pay her respects to her son over the anniversary period.
The theft has left her devastated.
In an email to the Gazette, Sandra, who was brought up in Amble, wrote: “I’m too distraught to talk, especially this close to Bry’s anniversary.
“I cannot understand the mentality of people who would steal from a grave.
“Do they have no respect or boundaries at all? How would they feel if this was the resting place of their loved one?”
She said that the mementoes left at the grave keep Bry – who was from Amble but lived in London at the time of his death – company, but that has been taken away.
She said: “It’s not the monetary cost of these items, but it is the emotional upset and feeling of trespass, and that my son’s resting place has been disturbed that makes me upset and angry.
“The small bible with a crucifix was specially chosen and left out of love, remembrance and respect by one of Bry’s London friends when he made the long trip up north to visit. I haven’t had the heart to tell him it has been stolen.
“The other items were personal gifts from me from a grieving mother to her son – how despicable and devastating to have them stolen. In particular the small cross stolen from the card where they had to rip open the packing – this was laminated so must have taken some time.
“My grandmother is in the same cemetery as my son and in my younger days this type of thing did not happen.”
She called for the offenders to be ‘named and shamed’ if caught and suggested a suitable punishment would be to ‘spend a number of hours working with the groundsmen at the cemetery on suitable strenuous tasks’.
Mayor of Amble Ian Hinson said he was ‘appalled’.
“If people can’t leave mementoes at a grave, then I don’t know where we go from there,” he added.
Alnwick Neighbourhood Police Inspector Paul Truscott, whose sector includes Amble, branded the theft ‘despicable’ and warned that the offenders will be dealt with by the ‘full accordance of the law’ if they are caught.
The cemetery will be given extra attention by officers.