Two Waipawa women who took 15 memorial crosses from a remembrance site for fallen soldiers say they regret their actions, but did the right thing by returning them.
People as far off as Australia expressed their horror after an image surfaced of Cassie Paige and Danni Ransfield in front of a fake "grave" site erected in their back yard.
The photo, which showed them pulling hand signals, with crosses in the background, went viral on Facebook with people sharing it to express their disgust.
It was captioned "we casually made a grave yard at 6am".
There was also a video which documented the pair taking from what one war veteran has described as a "sacred site".
Both women, in their early 20s, were, "genuinely sorry" for their actions, adding that the incident had caused them a great deal of embarrassment.
"It was a f****** stupid mistake, but it was only one mistake that we made when we were really p*****d. We don't deserve to have our names in the paper," Ms Paige said.
"As soon as we woke up in the morning we thought, 's**t what have we done?' and we took the photos down straight away.
"We've already been embarrassed enough. We had to put the crosses back and people were laughing at us."
They snuck in and took the crosses on Friday night before putting them back in their rightful place the following morning, with a letter of apology.
"That's why we went to police, we know what we did was wrong. We put them back in their holes within hours of taking them, the others that are still missing must have been taken after that."
Due to their co-operation and the fact they had returned the crosses, police have decided that no charges will be laid.
However, police are still trying to track down 10 crosses that remain unaccounted for.
While the women are not in any trouble with the law, an ongoing argument is still raging online about their lack of respect, something the women do not deny.
"People have got the right to their opinions, we are genuinely sorry and we are not denying what we did was wrong."
Returned Waipawa serviceman Wally Malcolm felt the issue had been dealt with appropriately but reiterated his disappointment at what had happened.
"It's only there for this month because of ANZAC day, however the temptation was too much for these people.
"They have given them back and we hope it won't happen again with the example that has been made of them. It is a sacred site - that's what it was all about."
Feedback on the CHB Mail Facebook page and Hawke's Bay Today website had created a hot debate, with one woman's post gaining 178 "likes" and 48 comments
"Considering these silly little girls that took them recorded themselves and then posted it on Facebook shows they have no respect for our men and women that have served for our country.
"I hope that reality hit hard and you have the decency to own up and face the consequences," Lisa Franklin wrote.
Another Waipawa man, who did not want to be named, said he had shared the image of the girls on his Facebook page, "because what they did was wrong".
"99 per cent of people supported what I said...My pop fought in the war, a lot of us had relatives that fought in the war. It's just really disrespectful."
The day after the crosses were taken Waipawa and districts RSA president and councillor Maitland Manning said: "[Veterans] don't take too kindly to this sort of treatment. It's like their memories have been walked all over."
Anyone with information about the remaining missing crosses can contact Waipukurau police on (06) 858 9140.