Pensioner's handbag swiped as she tended to husband's grave

Thieves swiped a pensioner’s handbag from her car as she tended to her husband’s grave in Walsall – before going on a spending spree at McDonald’s.

Streetly Crematorium on Little Hardwick Road. Photo: Google Street View
Streetly Crematorium on Little Hardwick Road. Photo: Google Street View

Beryl Othon was at Streetly Crematorium on Sunday, October 11, around 1pm removing thorns from roses left for her husband George when the thieves struck.

Mr Othon died in 2008 and the theft happened on what would have been his 72nd birthday.

Her bag contained £40 cash, her driving licence and cards, including her debit card which she later discovered had been used twice in McDonald’s in Walsall via two transactions for £29 and £24 shortly after the theft before she’d been able to cancel the card.

Distraught Mrs Othon said she will never go to the cemetery alone again and has called for more CCTV cameras to be placed there.

Walsall Council said patrol officers visit facilities and lock cemetery gates daily and monitor them regularly at weekends and bank holidays.

The 71-year-old said she hadn’t locked the car when she went back to the grave after treating the roses, but only noticed the handbag missing when she returned minutes later. She also said she had spotted a grey van pull up nearby, shortly after she arrived, and believes the occupants may have had something to do with it.

Mrs Othon said: “They’d seen me on my own, vulnerable. I had left the car open and the bag was under the footwell. I went back and noticed it was missing.

“I got out and looked in the boot. I knew I’d had it but went home to double check but it was gone.

“Things go through your mind, how did that happen? Why did I leave the car open? That sort of thing.

“The only good thing was I took my car keys with me and put them in my pocket, otherwise they’d have probably driven off with that.

'Appalling'

“I had everything else in there. They used my debit card in McDonalds in Walsall. My son wondered how they could spend so much there – I think they must have fed the whole family.

“They should have more CCTV there. Now, I’m not going to go to that cemetery on my own ever again.

“Just the thought of people going around looking for vulnerable people to take something from – what low life. It is a worry.

“When I think about it, they were watching me walk away. They probably realised I hadn’t locked the car as the lights didn’t come on.

“Perhaps that’s a good thing because they didn’t attack me for it. Who knows how low they’d have stooped?”

Councillor Garry Perry, portfolio holder for community, said: “It is appalling that anyone would break into a car at a cemetery, as visitors are paying respects to their loved ones.

“Whilst thefts of this nature are not common, we urge that this type of callous incident is immediately reported to the police.

“The council maintains eight cemeteries within the Walsall borough covering over 68 hectares of grounds and although we have a degree of CCTV coverage and monitoring presence at the Streetly site, it is in the vicinity of the building area.

“Visitors to our cemeteries are therefore advised to please make sure that their cars are always secure and to avoid leaving any valuables on display.”

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