Good Samaritan donates angel statue to restore Sunderland memorial garden after shocking theft

A generous donation has helped restore a Sunderland memorial garden after the heartbreaking theft of a statue.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 7:00 am

Gail Sheppard was left devastated after a sculpture she had bought for the garden, which honoured the lives of 43 people buried in unmarked graves, was stolen.

Her house is at the entrance to Grangetown Cemetery in Sunderland and sits on consecrated land.

In a touching tribute to the men, women and children who are buried there, Gail planted flowers and bought the sculpture when she moved in two years ago.

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Gail Sheppard and Sean Hughes with the new statue at the memorial garden.

It was stolen from her garden overnight between 10pm on Saturday, June 27 and 1pm on Sunday, June 28, prompting an investigation by Northumbria Police.

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But Ryhope man Sean Hughes sprang into action and donated an angel statue and bench to Gail, so her garden could be restored.

He said: “I was shocked that anybody could stoop so low. The statue was clearly of huge sentimental importance to Gail so I wanted to do something to help.

The original story was stolen from Gail's garden.

“It’s a small gesture, but hopefully one that helps restore the memorial garden and provides a lasting memory to those buried there.”

Gail, 56, said she was ‘blown away’ by Sean’s generosity and the reaction of the community as news of the heartless crime became public.

While the original statue had little financial value, Gail said its sentimental value was ‘huge’ and that it was there to recognise the lives of those who had died.

She added: “The North East is a very special place and I can’t believe the kindness and generosity shown by a complete stranger.

“I’d like to thank Sean for his wonderful donation – I’m incredibly touched and it says an awful lot about the community spirit that this region is famed for. It’s incredibly kind of him.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, added: "The theft of the original statue caused unnecessary anger and upset, but it's wonderful to hear that Sean has stepped in and offered a fitting tribute, welcomed by many.”

Officers are still looking to hear from anyone who has information about the theft, or where the statue might be.

Contact 101 quoting log 668 280620, or email [email protected]

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