Bench stolen from Norwich graveyard returned to family and man charged with theft following appeal

Kevin Price with partner Andrea Barrett and son Albert next to Maisie Price's grave where the bench

Kevin Price with partner Andrea Barrett and son Albert next to Maisie Price's grave where the bench was stolen from in Earlham Cemetery, Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

A bench in memory of an eight-year-old girl from Norwich is set to be restored to Earlham cemetery, after a couple who had unwittingly bought the bench read of its theft in the Norwich Evening News.

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

Maisie Price's grave in Earlham cemetery, before the theft of the bench. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2010

The theft of the bench from the graveside of Maisie Price was reported on the front page of Saturday's Evening News.

Maisie Price, who died from swine flu.

Maisie Price, who died from swine flu. - Credit: Archant

By Saturday afternoon the bench had been handed to police and a man had been arrested in connection with its theft, who was then also charged with the crime.

The heartbroken parents of Maisie Price, who 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, had appealed for help in finding the bench.

After identifying the bench as the one they had been searching for, Maisie's father, Kevin Price, from Bowthorpe, said: 'We are very, very pleased and very grateful to the Evening News for running the story.

'I understand from the lady who received the bench that it is what made her come forward and dob this bloke in. To be fair, she was absolutely horrified about what had happened.'

The couple who returned the bench, who do not want to be named, bought the bench a couple of weeks ago, with its memorial plaque having been removed before they bought it.

Despite being caught up in the cruel crime through no fault of their own, the couple have offered to pay to have the memorial plaque on the bench replaced.

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The unnamed woman said: 'When I read the story in the Evening News and saw the photo, I knew it was the bench we had, so me and my partner took it straight away to the police station.

'We wanted to pay for the plaque to be replaced because the parents have been through enough - they've lost their little girl, let alone having things stolen from her grave, so we wanted to help put it back to how it was.

'I have children myself and I would have been devastated if it had happened to me.'

Three years ago an angel had also been stolen from Maisie's grave at Earlham cemetery, which was never recovered.

Mr Price, 48, added: 'We thought we'd never see the bench again, we'd resigned ourselves to it not coming back, so we are thrilled that it has.'

Sgt Mark Shepherd, from Earlham Police Station, added: 'Thanks to the high profile appeal in the Evening News, the bench has been quickly recovered and returned to the family.

'The couple's offer to replace the plaque is a lovely gesture and a nice outcome for what has been an upsetting event for the family.'

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, 38, of Roe Drive in Earlham, was later charged with theft and accused of stealing the bench between Thursday, August 22 and Thursday, September 5.

A police spokesman confirmed Vincent was to be kept in custody overnight before appearing at Norwich Magistrates Court today.

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