Members of a local family are devastated after the ashes of their loved ones were stolen from the Paparoa Cemetery.
A local woman Olivia Mitchell went to visit her grandfather’s grave on Tuesday evening only to find the bronze plaques of three of her family members had been pried off and the ashes taken.
She says while the plaques can be replaced, she is heartbroken that the ashes were taken as well and hopes they will be safely returned to her family.
“Our whole family doesn’t know what to do and are pretty wound up to think someone could stoop so low and be so heartless,” Mitchell says.
“We thought we were possibly looking in the wrong spot but [we] found old photos of us near the missing plaques and the two spaces where my uncle, pop and nana were empty.
“[I am] absolutely gutted especially because it would have been my pops’ birthday today,” she says.
The family has filed a report with the police who are investigating.
They have also reached out to the Paparoa Cemetery maintenance team to see if they have any more information.
Senior Sergeant Peter Kaveney said police received a report that the family ashes and plaques were stolen sometime between October 2017 and June 19, 2018.
“Clearly, this must be a distressing time for the family and we sympathise with them,” Kaveney says.
“We appeal to the person or people who took the ashes and plaques to do the right thing and return them to the cemetery.
“At the same time, if any scrap metal dealers come across the plaques, they should call police.”
Catherine Moore, Auckland Council manager of Auckland cemeteries says they all issues like this are taken very seriously and she has asked the family to get in contact so council can investigate further.
This is not the first time vandals have targeted the Paparoa Cemetery.
In 2016, around 20 memorial plaques were stolen in an act of vandalism, pried off with what was believed to be a crowbar.
The urns containing the ashes of loved ones were left exposed before being temporarily removed by cemetery maintenance.
- If anyone has any knowledge of this incident, they can call 250 2800.
- Alternatively, anyone can make an anonymous report to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.