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11.25am update: Police charge man with theft of bench from grave of Norwich youngster Maisie Price

PUBLISHED: 11:25 08 September 2013 | UPDATED: 11:30 08 September 2013

Maisie Price, who died from swine flu.

Maisie Price, who died from swine flu.

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Police have this morning charged a 38-year-old Norwich man after recovering a bench stolen from the grave of an eight-year-old Norwich girl who died four years ago.

Maisie Price's grave in Earlham cemetery, before the theft of the bench. 
Photo: Bill SmithMaisie Price's grave in Earlham cemetery, before the theft of the bench. Photo: Bill Smith

The heartbroken parents of Maisie Price had appealed for help in finding the bench, which was taken from Earlham Cemetery in Norwich, in the EDP and Norwich Evening News yesterday and the appeal has proved successful.

Maisie was the first person in Norfolk to die solely as a result of the H1N1 flu virus, also known as swine flu, in October 2009. Three years ago an angel had also been stolen from her gravesite at Earlham cemetery, leaving her parents even more devastated at another loss.

Police arrested the man in connection with the theft of the memorial bench on Saturday afternoon and took him to Wymondham Police Investigation Centre for questioning.

Shane Vincent, of Roe Drive in Earlham, has now been charged with theft and is accused of stealing the bench between Thursday, August 22 and Thursday, September 5.

A police spokesman confirmed Vincent will now be kept in custody overnight and will appear at Norwich Magistrates Court in the morning.

Maisie’s father Kevin Price, 48, from Bowthorpe, had said of the theft: “I’m annoyed, first of all that anybody would do that, but, also, that this seems to happen quite regularly at the cemetery.

“Obviously, the people who took it must have had a van to take it away, and a toolbox with them.

“The bench was screwed to paving slabs on the ground and has a brass plaque on it. It cost £150 to buy and then we just spent another £150 refurbishing it.”

Maisie’s mother and Mr Price’s partner, Andrea Barrett, 42, a sales executive, visited the cemetery on Thursday.

She said: “It was quite a big deal for me as it was our son, Albert’s first day back at school, and he’s now in the same class at Notre Dame preparatory school that Maisie was in, before she passed away.

“I took flowers with me to put on the grave, but I could not believe it when I got there. The bench had been bolted to the floor.

“I was so upset that I nearly crashed the car on the way back, and was driving in the wrong lane. In the end, I did not leave the flowers at the site.”

A Norfolk police spokesman had confirmed they were investigating the theft and would be visiting Mr Price today.

The cemetery is run by Norwich City Council, and a spokesman said: “We can only imagine the upset caused to relatives and loved ones by the mindless act of thieves who target items specifically put in place in memory of those who have passed away.

“We have been in touch with the family to let them know that as this is clearly a case of theft, the matter has been passed to the police to deal with.”

As reported, Maisie had no underlying health problems or medical conditions, and NHS Norfolk said at the time that it was believed she had suffered an “extremely unusual” reaction to the virus which may have been a “major factor”.

Her sudden death came just a day after she developed a slight temperature. She woke up with a swollen face and her mother took her to the emergency doctor and then to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Doctors managed to resuscitate her once but she died in the early evening.

Following her death, the family paid tribute to her as a girl who always had “a smile on her face” and who looked after the young ones at school.

“She had a cheeky side, but she was turning into a fine young lady. She was really blossoming,” her mother said.

Maisie was also a keen dancer, attending the Yvonne School of Dance in Hethersett.

Mr Price wrote a book, The Beauty Contest at the Zoo, to try and deal with the grief.

- For more about the successful recovery of the bench, see Monday’s EDP and Norwich Evening News.

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