NEARLY a decade ago, aged just 33, mum-of-four Veronica Martin was cruelly taken by pancreatic cancer.
Items placed on her grave by a loving family weeks after her death had remained in place ever since.
That is until callous thugs swiped the decorations from beneath Veronica’s headstone at Ashbourne Cemetery.
Now ‘heartbroken’ family members are pleading with the thieves to return what they stole.
Mary Riley, Veronica’s mum, told the News Telegraph she was still in ‘a state of disbelief’ at what had happened.
She said: “If kids have done this and they’re old enough to be out on their own, they’re old enough to know better.
“If it’s adults, then what an absolutely despicable thing to do, to steal from someone’s grave.
“We’re all absolutely devastated and just want Veronica’s things returning.
“They’re of little or no monetary value so whoever’s taken it has gained nothing.
“But they have such huge sentimental value to us.”
The items taken include two figures depicting fairies and another showing four children - representing Veronica’s own - sitting on a log.
Mrs Ridley said: “I have one message for whoever did this - bring these valuable items back and leave them alone.
“I just can’t stop thinking about what’s happened and why on earth someone would do such a thing.
“If the decorations were gold-plated it would make more sense but they’re probably not even worth a tenner each.
“My husband, John, who is Veronica’s dad, look after the grave ourselves and we were stunned when we found these things gone.
“We bought the piece with the children sitting on a log to represent Veronica’s own four children.
“They were very young when we lost her nine years ago and have been hit hard by this.”
Ashbourne Police are appealing for information in a bid to catch the offenders and return the artefacts to their rightful place.
A Derbyshire Police spokesman said: “The theft happened between 11am on Sunday, September 8 and noon on Tuesday, September 10 in the cemetery in Mayfield Road.
“Two figures depicting fairies and one ornament of four children sitting on a log were taken from the grave. “
Inspector Richard Booth said: “I’m shocked that someone would take these figures.
“The items are not very expensive but have great sentimental value to the family.
“I can’t see why anyone would be so heartless as to steal them.”
Anyone with any information about the offence is asked to contact police on 101 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.