A CARLISLE family have spoken of their heartbreak after thieves targeted their mum’s grave.

It’s prompted them to encourage others to report anything suspicious they see in the hope that this does not happen to anyone else.

Anthony Bell was crushed to find the centrepiece of his mum’s memorial - a one-of-kind white marble ornament of the Virgin Mary - had been stolen.

His sister Karen O’Neill put out an appeal on social media and the family have since been reunited with the figure but want to highlight the devastation this has caused.

“Although we have the statue back we do not know who was responsible for taking it so feel we have no closure to who and why,” said Karen, 52, of Stanwix.

“It has hit the whole family but it has hit my brother really bad. He is there every Sunday making sure it is spotless.

“It would be good if people looked out for other people and keep their eyes open for anybody acting suspicious.

“It’s heartbreaking when you get something removed. It’s 10 years ago in August this year but it still affects the family so much because she was our rock.

“Where she is laid is really special and for someone to do that ripped the hearts out of all of us.”

Mary Bell died in August 2009 and her son Anthony has visited St John’s Cemetery, Upperby, every week since to tidy the area, cut the grass near the path and clean the display. While planters and lanterns have been taken in the past, no one has touched the figure in almost a decade.

“I just fell to the ground,” he said. “I just had to get away. When I got back to the flat I was shouting. I was furious.

“I have had someone break into my house and a car stolen 17 years ago. I have been through that but what I witnessed yesterday had me to the ground.

“It has ruined the memorial. How can people be so callous.”

Mr Bell, 56, of South Street, off London Road, reported the theft to the police on Sunday. He believes it was removed sometime between April 7 and this weekend.

His sister shared an appeal on Facebook and thankfully the statue has since been found in Manor Road.

Cumbria Police said there had not been any related offences reported and investigations were ongoing.

A police spokeswoman said it was “an appalling act, at a place where people go to pay their respects and remember their loved ones. I hope if anyone has any information they will get in touch and report it.”

Carlisle City Council, which runs the cemetery, is also encouraging anyone with information to contact Cumbria Police. A spokeswoman added: “The theft of personal items from graves or memorials are uncommon within our cemetery grounds but when they do occur, they are distressing for the families involved.”

Contact police on 101, quoting log number 101 of April 14, or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.