A Hastings man is devastated a statue made using the ashes of his stillborn granddaughter has been stolen from his front porch.
Karl O'Neale returned from a day trip to Taupo to discover the bulldog statue missing, after it had been shifted into a more visible position near the road during porch repairs on his Flaxmere property.
Mixed into the cement it was made from were the ashes of his granddaughter, who died five years ago.
"We got back late that night and it was gone," he said. "We didn't get home until about 11 o'clock so it could have been that night."
His wife, recently diagnosed with cancer, was very upset and he had yet to tell his daughter, who now lives in Taranaki.
"It's just like a mobile grave site. You get people going and smashing up graves - they're pretty scum, aren't they?
"She was stillborn so that was the easiest way to keep her with us," he said of the statue.
"We used to always be on farms, always shifting around. We only just bought this place 18 months ago."
He described the statue as a heavy, solid concrete mould of a brown dog sitting down with its head tilted to one side. "It's a mobile grave. If you get someone damaging a grave you're not very happy, are you?"
Despite his anger, he did not notify the police as he did not hold out much hope it would be located.
He only wanted the statue returned rather than the thieves punished.
"The people don't know what was in it - we've all done stupid things. They'll probably never find it anyway," he said.
"The thing is, [the thieves] don't know what is in it. If they knew what was in it they wouldn't even touch it."
If they did realise it contained the ashes of his granddaughter, he thought it might "spook" them.
"Just bring it back. I don't want to get anyone in trouble but just want it back, that's all." Although the theft of Mr O'Neale's statue was not reported to police, it appeared to be part of a wider crime problem in the suburb. Recently a group of elderly Flaxmere residents told Hawke's Bay Today they were sick of the "thugs" that ruled the streets around their retirement village and neighbourhood.
Moewaka Shepherd, 65, said the vulnerable people in her community were "sitting ducks" to the developing culture of vandalism and theft.
In response, police announced they would be taking a tough stance with youth in Flaxmere.
Residents had reported numerous disorder, violence, burglaries and car crimes being committed by local youth and police said it was time to bring the offenders to account.
Flaxmere Community Constable Greg Andrew said the problem was ongoing and hampered by a lack of parental support.
"The main problem is that there are a lot of young kids roaming the streets at night, getting up to no good. There is no parental supervision and these kids are being left to their own devices. We often hear 'where are the parents?'
"It's a very valid question and these people need to take responsibility for their children and their actions."