A SUSPECTED thief riding a mobility scooter is being hunted by police after the “disgusting” theft of a memorial to a much-loved dad.
One of two memorial vases were stolen from a bench above the Cat and Dog Steps at Roker seafront, just six months after the sudden death of seemingly fit and healthy Alfie Corner.
The dad-of-two, 53, had an undiagnosed heart condition which took his life last September, and his family had the bench installed at his favourite Sunderland beauty spot, and plan to scatter his ashes there this summer.
However, their special place has been tainted. At about 7.30pm last Thursday, the suspect was seen cutting the cable ties that held the vase in place, before making off with it.
Alfie’s niece Tanya, 28, said: “My friend, just by chance, was walking her dog and saw the man on a mobility scooter wearing high-visibility clothing and a Sunderland scarf.
“She saw him stop and take a saw out of his backpack and cut through the cable ties that held the vase in place.”
The friend alerted Tanya, a community midwife from Doxford Park, who was in her car nearby.
“I recognised him straight away,” she said. “I saw him coming over the Wearmouth Bridge, but by the time we had turned around in the one-way system, we lost him. He’s been spotted three times. It’s disgusting.”
The theft has come at an already difficult time for Alfie’s family.
“To us it is his grave. He doesn’t have a headstone, so it is somewhere for us to go,” his widow Gail, 47, said.
“He used to walk along the seafront. It was his favourite place. He loved it. I used to joke that I would get him a bench down here, and he laughed. I’m so angry. I feel like they have stolen off a grave. We were going to scatter his ashes there in June when we can get all the family together.”
Alfie, a shopfitter, had two children, Joanna, 22, and 19-year-old Daniel, from a previous relationship.
“He absolutely loved Sunderland as a place,” Daniel said. “He was friendly with everyone. He didn’t like people who had done wrong and he would have been absolutely furious, absolutely disgusted like I am.
“I don’t know what makes people do that. It doesn’t reflect Sunderland as a place.
“These people are the absolute scum of the earth. If this is what Sunderland has come to, I can’t wait to move away when I’ve finished uni.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: “At 7.36pm on Thursday, April 3, police received information that a memorial bench at Roker seafront had been vandalised, with Sunderland AFC flower holders stolen.
“The suspect is described as being on a mobility scooter, wearing a high-vis jacket and wearing a Sunderland scarf.
“Police are making inquiries into the theft and anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 ext 69191, quoting reference 1145 03/04/14, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”