Harpenden family devastated over grave thefts

A HARPENDEN family has been left “absolutely heartbroken” after callous thieves stole flowers from their father’s grave for the second time in four months.

Julie Turner’s father, Raymond, passed away in June this year and was buried at Westfield Road Cemetery in the town.

Raymond was a keen gardener and his family have paid tribute to this by decorating his grave with an array of flowers and tending to them every day. The plot has even become known as Grandad’s Garden to his two great-grandchildren and several of his 10 grandchildren.

But just a month or so after his funeral, the family were shocked to discover that plant pots containing busy lizzies had been stolen from the grave.

The incident rocked the grieving family who were still coming to terms with Raymond’s death. But in a further blow, the grave was then targeted for a second time last week, when six pansies were dug up and taken.

Julie, who is one of four daughters, said: “It’s very upsetting for the whole family and we’re absolutely heartbroken.

“It was hard enough losing our dad and our mum’s husband of 53 years, but this is just hurtful.”

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In light of the thefts, Julie and the family arranged a meeting with St Albans District Council (SADC), which owns the cemetery.

Ann Collings, cemeteries manager at SADC, said the council was aware that plants had been stolen from a grave at Westfield Road Cemetery and that steps would be taken to try and prevent further thefts.

She said: “The theft of plants from graves is quite rare, but it does happen from time to time and can be distressful to the families.

“We will be putting a temporary sign up near to the grave where the plants were stolen, pointing out how disrespectful such thefts are and asking people not to take plants from graves.”

Julie continued: “I haven’t got a clue why someone would do this and it’s hard to imagine how someone could be so disrespectful. I presume it’s someone who wants to make their own garden look nice.

“I just hope they’re happy and wonder how they would feel if they had cherished items stolen?”

The incidents have also been reported to Herts police, and a spokesperson said: “Police have been made aware of two incidents of vandalism and theft at Westfield Cemetery in Harpenden. The Neighbourhood Officer for that area is working with the victims around the incidents.

“This kind of heartless and callous crime is totally unacceptable and police take incidents of this kind seriously. Officers are also patrolling the area in response.

“We are appealing to anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity in the cemetery to contact police via non-emergency number 101. However, if you think a crime is in progress, always ring 999.”

Despite the thefts, Julie has said the family would not be deterred from keeping the grave looking nice in their dad’s memory.