Monday, 16 July 2018

Families slam graveyard thieves

TWO Henley residents have spoken of their outrage after personal artefacts were stolen from their loved ones' graves.

TWO Henley residents have spoken of their outrage after personal artefacts were stolen from their loved ones’ graves.

Martin Jones, whose mother Julie was laid to rest at Fair Mile Cemetery in 2004, visited the site last Sunday to find one of her stone ornaments was missing.

The miniature statue, which depicted a life-sized cat reclining on its back, had been one of her favourite garden decorations and was moved to her grave a short while after the funeral.

Meanwhile Josie Douglas, whose mother Jean Oleinik is also buried at Fair Mile, discovered a small stone pig had been stolen when she visited a fortnight ago.

This too had been a prized possession and was put in place soon after her death in late 2010. Neither have reported the theft as there are no CCTV cameras at the site and they do not believe police will be able to find the culprit.

However, they have hit out at whoever is responsible and urged them to return the items.

Mr Jones, who lives in Station Road with his partner Hilary Scott, said: “I thought about reporting it but it’s only going to waste the police’s time.

“As hurtful as this is to me, they can’t realistically do anything. There’s no footage or photos so there’s nothing to investigate.

“There aren’t any cameras up there because I guess they don’t expect anyone to steal things.

“I don’t understand why anyone would do this as you could go to a garden centre and get something similar for a tenner. When I noticed it was missing I stood there and wondered what kind of absolute scumbag would do that. Is this what society has really come to?”

Mrs Jones was born in Wargrave and lived in the area her whole life. She was living in Simmons Road, Henley, when she died of cancer aged 64. Her family donated a bench in her name to the cemetery.

She bought the statue about five years before her death as it reminded her of her pet cat Pippa, who would often sit on her lap while rolling over on her back.

Her son, who is the only one of her children who lives locally, said: “This is lower than shoplifting — the statue isn’t worth much but has enormous sentimental value and can’t be replaced. Anything left on a grave, however small, means something to someone. It’s just disgusting.

“To the person who stole it, I would say ‘go and look at yourself in the mirror’ — and if you don’t recognise what you see, let me educate you.

“You are the lowest form of scum and I hope you are cursed until the day you return this ornament to its rightful place.”

Mrs Oleinik was born in Bethnal Green and moved to the area as a child. She married as a young woman but her husband Joe died in 1977 and is also buried at Fair Mile.

At the time of her death, when she was 78 and also living in Simmons Road, she had dementia and contented herself by collecting toys and statues of pigs.

A china piggybank on her grave was not taken but an ear was chipped off.

Her daughter, of Clarence Road in Henley, said: “When I last visited I knew something wasn’t right. I checked with my brother Peter and he confirmed there should have been two pigs.

“It’s something you really don’t expect. We were going to replace it but what’s the point? The new one will probably go missing too unless we nail it down.

“I couldn’t believe it at first, but the more I thought about it the angrier I became. What right has anyone got to do that? It had been there for years so it was heavily weathered and of little use to anyone.

“However, it was very personal and had sentimental value because she and I always used to joke about how many pigs she’d collected before she died.

“Anyone who could do this is a total low-life. I could never have imagined that anyone would be capable. My parents are buried in a secluded part of the cemetery and it’s worrying to think what kind of people might be hanging around there.”

Henley Town Council, which owns the cemetery, has confirmed it did not remove the items. It said it would always leave notes on graves or get in touch with surviving relatives if this became necessary.

Councillor Sam Evans, who chairs the authority’s recreation and amenities committee, said: “I’m absolutely appalled and have never heard of anything like this before. It’s completely unbelievable.

“We don’t have cameras up there because it’s such a huge space but we are conducting a review of CCTV in the town. We could investigate putting one at the entrance as a deterrent.

“I’m very concerned and want whatever is realistically achievable to prevent this from happening again.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Henley Standard.

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