By Patricia Devlin
THE family of a Cookstown woman whose grave was left bare by thieves say they have been left distraught by the thefts.
In the last two weeks the grave of former local woman Mary-Ann Loughran, who passed away last year, has been singled out by thieves not once, but twice.
Those behind the twisted thefts targeted the 62 year-old’s Forthill Cemetery burial place after her family decorated it with rare blue and white stones, symbolising her dedication to Lourdes when she was alive.
Less than two weeks later, thieves struck - bizarrely only taking the white stones.
Just weeks following the theft the heartless perpetrators returned, clearing Mary-Ann’s grave of the remaining blue cobble-like stones.
“Mary-Ann’s anniversary is on Monday and the grave is bare,” brother James told the MAIL.
“We can’t put the same stones on there because if we did they would probably be stolen.”
“I don’t know why anyone would do that, because, she was a good person, she did work for charity, and she went to Lourdes this twenty years and took Martin, her grandson, who is disabled, this 15 years.
“That’s why we chose the blue and white stones - she was a great following of Our Lady of Lourdes and so we thought these stones would be nice for her.”
James added: “It was just two weeks ago the white stones went missing. They sat out well, we put the blue on the bottom and sprinkled the white on top.”
“When we visited the grave two weeks ago the white stones had been removed and the blue stones had been pushed to one corner.
“It wasn’t just grab and take them, they had went through them and placed the blue stones to one corner, and picked the white out.”
James said after contacting police and Cookstown District Council about the thefts he was told that little could be done because there were no CCTV cameras in the cemetery.
Then on Monday, exactly one week before Mary-Ann’s anniversary, James returned to the cemetery to find the remaining blue stones had been stolen.
“The grave was just bare,” he said.
“I broke down yesterday, it’s hard even now I am holding back.”
“Mary’s daughter Michelle took her grandson around to visit the grave too on Monday, not knowing about the theft and it was bare. She’s in bits about it.”
Local councillor Ciaran McElhone is set to highlight the family’s anguish over the theft at the next avilable council meeting.
Councillor McElhone said: “I condemn this kind of behaviour and would appeal to the community to report any cases of vandalism or abuse of graves in our cemeteries.
“All graves should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity at all time,” he said.
Mr Conolly, who is offering a reward for the return of the stones, or information on who was behind the thefts, said it was the callousness of the thieves that hurts the family the most.
“If you were going to rob something, would you not take the whole thing in one go? You wouldn’t come back again.”
If you have any information on the thefts please contact the Mid-Ulster Mail who will pass it onto the family.