OUTRAGED parents of a Yate man who died four years ago have slammed the theft of a sentimental ornament from his memorial garden.

Brian and Pauline Meek, who live in Yate, have tended to their son Ian’s memorial garden in Westerleigh Crematorium since he passed away in August 2012, preserving his memory with keepsakes and decorations.

A stone inscribed ‘Loved always’ along with a heart had been added to the garden in February for Ian’s birthday as a replacement after the message on the old stone had worn away.

But on their next visit a few weeks later, they discovered the stone was nowhere to be found, with staff at the crematorium simply telling them “these things happen”.

Ian was 42 when he died on August 1, 2012, having been diagnosed with a benign brain tumour in 1994 after suffering a fit on the way home from a football match.

Despite five major operations, the tumour turned malignant around a year before his death.

Originally from Yate, the father-of-three had moved to Yorkshire some years earlier where he raised more than £110,000 for Brain Tumour Research and Support across Yorkshire and, under the name Meeks’ Feats, he funded a research student at the University of the Leeds for three years.

Despite suffering problems with his hearing and sight, the former Rodford Primary School and King Edmund Community School (now Yate International Academy) student completed the Three Peaks challenge in 2010 as well as a 200-mile bike ride from Bristol to Yorkshire.

“It’s not the cost of the stone that matters to us,” said Pauline. “It is the personal meaning behind the stone and the fact that someone would do something so senseless and cruel as to take it.

“It is so very upsetting and I hope whoever is responsible can live with themselves.”

Mrs Meek said that if someone wanted to take something from a garden at the crematorium, it would be quite easy as sometimes you can be the only one there, but she hoped that people visiting to pay respect to their loved ones would have the heart and the decency to know better.

“People need to know this is happening. They could be spending a lot of money to tend to their gardens, only for other people to show such disrespect and take something,” she said.

 “Those of us who think normally just cannot understand what would compel someone to steal from a memorial garden.

“We were essentially told by the crematorium that ‘these things happen’ which really is not good enough.”

Responding to the news, Richard Evans, managing director of the Westerleigh Group, who run the crematorium, said: “We are disappointed to hear that a personal item has been lost as we take great care in the maintenance of our gardens and grounds.

“These incidents are very rare indeed and we will assist the family in trying to recover their property as soon as possible.”