London man arrested, charged following thefts from cemetery

A 35-year-old man has been arrested and charged after sentimental bronze vases and plaques were stolen from St. Peter’s Cemetery in London, Ont. last week, courtesy of a tip from the public.

According to a press release from the London Police Service, on Nov. 18, staff at St. Peter’s Cemetery, located on Victoria Street, discovered 43 bronze vases and multiple plaques had been stolen from the property.

The items had been forcibly removed and stolen overnight from niches in the cemetery’s columbarium’s.

Police said that the day before, a man had attended a recycling company to exchange a number of brass pieces for cash.

Aware of the theft from the cemetery, staff at the recycling company contacted London police. Cemetery staff were contacted, and the pieces were later confirmed to be the items stolen from the property.

In an interview with CTV News London on Nov. 18, diocese spokesperson Matthew Clarke said they had been busy breaking the news to affected families, and called the thefts a violation of sacred space.

“It’s very heartbreaking for something like this to happen there,” said Clarke. “Those memorial vases were deeply meaningful for the families who have someone laid to rest there. So to have them broken and stolen like that is something I don’t think we anticipated happening.”

The niches hold urns that contain the ashes of a deceased loved one, and Clarke said great care goes into personalizing each one.

“The families take a great deal of care to choose what’s going to go on the cover of the niche, and then the vase itself is a spot where they can come and leave flowers and remembrance, so it’s a very personal violation of what is in effect a sacred space,” he explained.

According to Clarke, each bronze vase is worth several hundred dollars.

As a result of the investigation, a 35-year-old man from London has been charged with possession of property obtained by crime exceeding $5,000 for his alleged involvement in the thefts.

The accused is scheduled to appear in a London court on Jan. 4, 2023 in relation to the charge.

— With files from CTV News London’s Bryan Bicknell

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