HEARTLESS thieves stole hundreds of pounds worth of funeral flowers which had been bought in memory of a much-loved great-grandfather.
Father-of-five James Hill, 63, affectionately known to his friends and family as “Ronnie”, passed away on June 13 - just 11 days after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
But when his devastated family visited St Helens Crematorium last Thursday (June 23) to collect the £600 floral tributes they had lovingly created for his funeral two days earlier - all but a handful had been stolen.
Mr Hill’s widow and partner of 44 years, Margaret, 65, said the heartless thieves had left the entire family devastated.
She said: “My daughter went to pick up my husband’s remains and almost all our family flowers had been stolen from outside the crematorium. None of the other flowers had been touched.
“We’re absolutely heartbroken. It’s a distressing enough time for us all, without having to cope with this. We just want to get on with grieving but instead we’re having to put up with this.
“It beggars belief that anyone would go into the grounds of a crematorium and steal funeral flowers. Whoever did this must have had a van too because the displays were too big to just be carried away.”
The stolen floral tributes, which were all red and white in honour of James’ beloved Liverpool FC, included a large display spelling out “Grandad”, another dedicated to “Dad”, a broken heart, six decorative posies from his grandchildren and a floral portrayal of the gates of heaven.
All of the deeply personal tribute cards were stolen too.
Staff at the council-run Rainford Road crematorium have since examined CCTV footage but, sadly, the area in which the flowers were being kept was not covered.
Councillor Alison Bacon, St Helens Council’s cabinet member for environmental protection, condemned the heartless theft.
She said: “It is beyond belief that anyone would stoop so low as to steal funeral flowers. This has just added even more upset to a family already in mourning. We reported this immediately to the police and hope they will find the perpetrators.”
Mrs Hill, of Parr, who has 16 grandchildren and four great grandchildren, added: “It’s been a terrible time. My husband never went to the doctor and was only diagnosed with cancer after I took him to the Millennium Centre and then Whiston Hospital after he had started suffering with his breathing.
“He was very popular - was born and bred in Pocket Nook Street - and was a lovable rogue. But the theft of his funeral flowers is just rubbing salt in all our wounds.”