Numerous bronze vases stolen from Surrey cemetery

Mourners denounce ‘disgusting’ crime

Graham Hastie came out from Ladner to visit his mom Pearl’s grave on Mother’s Day when he, as had maybe 100 other mourners recently, found somebody had swiped his loved one’s bronze vase from her plot at Valley View Memorial Gardens in Newton.

Vancouver resident Norm Wrightman said his brother went to put flowers on their parents Harold and Mildred’s grave about a week ago and also found “quite a number” of the vases had been removed from the bronze markers.

“It is very disrespectful,” Wrightman told the Now-Leader. “I mean, how desperate are you for money for illicit purposes that you would go into a graveyard and steal from the dead?

“That’s just disgusting.”

Justin Schultz, funeral home manager, echoed Wrightman’s revulsion.

“We’re definitely going to work with the families,” Schultz said. “I don’t have an exact number but there was a recent theft of a fairly significant number of vases. It is disappointing and we’re sorry it happened. It’s truly unfortunate for these folks.”

Schultz said Valley View, at 14660 72nd Ave., has since beefed up security.

READ ALSO: Surrey looks at fighting copper wire theft by installing cheaper aluminum in street lamps.

Surrey RCMP is investigating but has yet to identify a suspect. “We have no leads,” Corporal Scotty Schumann said. Schultz said it’s his understanding the police “have been working with the metal recyclers to try and figure out whether they can establish where these vases ended up.”

Besides identifying the thief or thieves, victims and police want to know who might have already bought the stolen vases, and if they did, if they knew the vases had been stolen from a cemetery.

READ ALSO: Metal thieves use chainsaw to chop down two Surrey power poles.

Hastie is shocked by the sheer number taken.

“Who would melt that down, or whatever, and where would it go? It’s obvious what they are,” he said of the vases. The further he walked in the 115-acre cemetery, he said, the more unbelievable the scope of this crime became.

“What I counted was up to a hundred. Holy, this is a massive amount. Where are they all going?”

His mom’s vase, he said, “had a chain hooked up — they all do. They had to rip them off and carry them. I would guess it’s some sort of brass, bronze, that kind of material.

“A lady that was visiting her husband; her’s was gone too.” Hastie said the woman approached the people in charge of Valley View. “She went up and talked to them and apparently there’s not a total count yet but there’s a massive amount that are gone, and they’re not going to replace them apparently because they say they’re just going to get stolen again.”

Schultz said Valley View hopes that while the police investigation “will be fruitful” the cemetery won’t leave the families hanging.

“What we’ve offered to do for the customers is provide them vases at our cost,” he said. “What it cost for us to manufacture them, that’s exactly what we’ll provide them to the customers for. At our cost, it’s roughly $300.

“It certainly is disappointing when something like that happens in the cemetery,” Schultz said. “We like to think this is something that perhaps people would reconsider perpetrating a theft in the cemetery but unfortunately, obviously it happened.”

“Hopefully the more the word gets out the more people will be vigilant about reconsidering taking something like this from someone who might bring it to them seeking some cash value for it.”

Wrightman agreed.

“I hope some recycler reads it (this newspaper story) and realizes what he’s got,” Wrightman said. “Anyways, to my understanding, I remember a few years ago something very similar happened but the recycler recognized what they were and didn’t accept them, turned them all back. I was hoping that with a little bit of publicity that might happen again. You know, metal recyclers should be licensed just like pawnbrokers and be required to take ID.

“Also the name plaque for my father had been unscrewed but left there. Maybe they figured it would be too obvious that it came from a graveyard, I don’t know. They took the screws. I contacted the administration at the cemetery and they said yes, unfortunately they were aware of it. Later on I got a call from an RCMP officer.

“It’s upsetting; of course it’s disrespectful,” Wrightman said. “Those vases, because they’re bronze, cost between $500 and $600 to replace. So, who knows what pittance this individual will get from the recycler with the weight of the bronze, it’s not that, it’s the fabrication and shipping and all the rest that it’s going to cost us to replace it. It’s a shame.”

The vases also contain copper, he said. “Maybe that’s what they’re after, I don’t know. It’s not just annoyance with the money, you go out there with a nice bunch of flowers, and you find this?”

As for metal thieves, he lamented, “They don’t care. They steal the ground wires from street lights without any concern about safety. They don’t care.”

tom.zytaruk@ surreynowleader.com

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