Spate of thefts of cremation urns unusual, police in B.C. say

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

I'm not sure if the trend to display the ashes of our departed loved ones publicly in an attractive container is actually growing but I do know I'm seeing reports more regularly of urns being stolen.

Widow Carol Lalonde had the ashes of her dead husband, Laurence, contained in a silver-coloured urn shaped like a big hockey puck, honouring her army veteran husband's passion for the game.

But last Christmas Eve, while the 77-year-old Delta, B.C., resident was visiting her daughter, thieves ransacked her home and made off with several items of home electronics, and the urn.

But Lalonde got some good news last Friday. Someone left the urn, engraved with Carol's nickname Babe on it, at the front door of a Salvation Army store in nearby Surrey.

"I got shivers and shakes and started to cry," Lalonde told the Vancouver Province. "It was something that was very unexpected.

"After 58 years (of marriage to Laurence), it was the most important part of my life gone. "Why, why, why would anybody do that — take something so personal? It's of no value to them."

There's no indication of whether it was the thief or a Good Samaritan who left the urn. Lalonde is simply appreciative.

"All I can do is thank you and God bless you for returning it," she said.

Unfortunately, other victims of Christmas-holiday urn thefts haven't been as lucky.

Four masked thieves broke into Trevis and Lindsay McGuire's Surrey condo on Christmas morning, taking a ring and an urn with the remains of Lindsay's father and aunt.

"We feel more violated and emotionally ripped off," Trevis old CTV News. "The physical belongings can be replaced, but not the sentimental ones."

And on Dec. 23, Russ Moerman of Langley, B.C., had his girlfriend's ashes stolen in a break-in. She had died eight months earlier.

"Having some of her ashes was a way for me to kind of hang on to her and keep her on some level, and she's been taken from me yet again," Moerman said.

Police doubt the cremation urns are being deliberately targeted, more likely that thieves mistake them for potentially valuable objects. But Delta police spokesman Const. Ciaran Feenan said investigators haven't come across this before.

"In my 15-year career I've never heard of it to this extent in a short amount of time," Feenan said.

Judging by the listings on Memorials.com, cremation urns come in thousands of models can cost hundreds of dollars. It's easy to see how thieves could mistake one for a valuable piece of artwork or silverware.