A Larne family who were left heartbroken after burglars stole the cash their late mother had saved up for her headstone have had their faith in humanity restored thanks to a kind-hearted stonemason.
The £800 saved by 83-year-old breast cancer victim Margaret Martin to add her picture and name to an existing headstone in Craigyhill cemetery was seized by callous thieves who broke into her daughter Elaine Wood’s house on January 5.
After burying Margaret in November, the family said they were “knocked for six” at the theft of her cash, which she had saved up so they “wouldn’t have to worry about the costs.”
However, the family are now being aided by Coleraine stonemason Tony Kneeland, who, after seeing their story in the media, has offered to drive to Larne and carry out the work on Margaret’s grave for free.
“This is a very, very nice gesture indeed, it proves that there are people out there who are very kind,” said Margaret’s grateful daughter Elaine.
“It’s not a nice thing to have happened but at least some good has come out of it, it restores our faith in human kind.
“There are still good people out there, and it’s nice to know somebody cares.”
Elaine says that the family were concerned about the sentimental value of the money stolen rather than the sum involved.
“The whole family has been missing her and grieving, and it’s another thing that no-one needed,” Elaine continued.
“A lot of people have said to us that it was a heartless thing to do.
“We just want people to raise awareness and to encourage more people to be vigilant and to keep a wee eye out.
“We would like to thank the local community for their kind wishes and thoughts, and of course Tony for kindly offering to do the work on my mum’s grave for free.”
Coleraine stonemason Tony Kneeland told the Times that he had decided to offer his services reading about the story on social media.
“I thought that what those burglars did was very low, my heart just dropped when I read about it,” he said.
“I couldn’t get them out of my head and I said that I would see if I could help them.
“I have been a stonemason for over 20 years and at Christmas I started to work for myself, so I thought it would be good karma to start off by doing something nice.
“I used to work as a funeral director and I feel empathy for the family, if I was in their shoes it would be gut-wrenching.
“For me it’s only a bit of diesel to get to Larne, I just want to help.”
Margaret’s nephew Aaron Hagan says that while the experience has been “hard” for the family, they will draw comfort from the community support and the fact they have helped raised awareness of the burglaries in the town.
“It’s about getting the message out and making people aware, it might not stop the burglars but it might slow them down or result in them being caught,” he stated.
“It has been emotional and hard but in the long term we have spoken out and we hope it will act as a deterrent.
“Tony’s offer restores our faith in humanity, we have seen the two ends of the spectrum: total strangers who broke into my Aunt’s house with no regard and a stranger who has offered to help out of kindness.
“It does remind you that there are a lot of good people out there.
“We are thankful and grateful, it’s really touching that someone has seen the story and connected with it and made such a kind and thoughtful offer.”
Visit Kneeland Memorials at www.kneelandmemorials.co.uk or phone 07484 207785.