Woman arrested over Auckland cemetery plaque theft

8:53 pm on 15 May 2017

Police have arrested a woman in connection with the theft of 23 bronze plaques from an Auckland cemetery, which left the plots unidentifiable to visitors.

Cemetery

Photo: 123RF

The plaques were found missing from Purewa Cemetery in Meadowbank over the weekend.

Police said this afternoon they had arrested a 26-year-old woman from Fairfield, Hamilton, and the investigation was ongoing.

They said nine of the missing plaques had been found in Hamilton.

Purewa Cemetery acting manager David Steele said all 23 plaques were taken from the same area next to the railway line.

"Security gates prevent people taking stuff away, but if they take it away on foot, particularly in that area, from a reserve which is adjacent then they could do that quietly and perhaps unobserved."

He believed thieves stole the plaques on different occasions over a period of up to 10 days.

Each of the stolen plaques cost up to $2000 but they were worth very little as scrap metal, Mr Steele said.

There would be increased patrols overnight at the cemetery to try to prevent further thefts, he said.

Other cases

This is the most recent case of theft from cemeteries, after graves in Hamilton and Ngatea were targeted last month.

The Purewa Cemetery was previously targeted in 2007, when 400 small bronze plaques were stolen from a memorial wall. The plaques were valued at $300,000.

Scrap Metal Recycling Association president Korina Kirk said plaques were probably stolen because they were heavy and their value could quickly add up.

In the most recent case, the 23 plaques could fetch about $200 as scrap metal, she said.

Ms Kirk said scrap dealers always required personal information such as photo identification and an address before they would buy metal.

She said dealers could usually identify stolen plaques even if they had been cut up.

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