Devastated families criticise ‘scum’ after graveyard theft spree

The grave of Liam Shanks in Chevington Cemetery with his mother Anna Morley and his aunt Brenda Morley.
The grave of Liam Shanks in Chevington Cemetery with his mother Anna Morley and his aunt Brenda Morley.

Scum of the earth and the lowest of the low – this is the damning verdict of callous thieves who have stolen sentimental items from graves in a village cemetery.

Bereaved families from Hadston have spoken of their disgust and shock after making the discovery earlier this week.

Heartless thieves have targeted a number of graves at Chevington Cemetery over the last few days, including that of 19-year-old Liam Shanks, who passed away in 2009.

The culprits have swiped a precious battery-operated candle from his grave, which has been lit by his family every night since he was laid to rest.

His devastated mother, Anna Morley, believes it was taken overnight on Sunday, and has spoken of her fury.

“I am feeling a mixture of emotions,” said the 42-year-old.

“I am angry and am disappointed that somebody could do this. They are the scum of the earth.”

In a sickening spree, the thieves haven’t stopped there, targeting numerous other graves nearby.

A one-foot-tall solar-powered angel, left at the grave of Sheila Mavin, 66, as a Mother’s Day gift last year, was taken overnight on Monday.

Her daughter Brenda Morley, who is Anna’s sister-in-law, said: “I am devastated. These people really are the lowest of the low.”

She added: “Even if it was my worst enemy, I would never stoop to this level.

“My mum hated anything like this – she would be turning in her grave.

“The angel was sentimental and we put it there a few weeks after Mother’s Day last year.

“We are now frightened to leave anything else for mum, other than flowers, in case it gets stolen.”

Brenda, 45, said that another angel was taken from a grave nearby, while other items have been snatched from other plots.

“I think whoever is pinching these items could have done so to sell them off, at say a car-boot sale,” said Brenda.

She added: “We want to make people aware that this is going on and encourage them to check the graves of their loved ones.”

East Chevington Parish Council chairman Scott Dickinson, who is also county councillor for Druridge Bay ward, expressed his disgust at the recent thefts.

He said: “I am absolutely disgusted and disappointed to have been told about this by the families. What goes through someone’s mind who steals from graves?

“I don’t think they understand the impact it has on the families involved. I hope someone knows who it was and shares that information with the police and the culprits are revealed.”

Neighbourhood police Inspector Karen Murray added: “These types of theft cause great distress to families and I would appeal for help from the public to identify those responsible.”

Anyone with details should call police on 101, ext 69191, quoting log number 277 of 25/03/14, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.