'I had a promise to keep': Surrey man pleads for return of mother's stolen ashes

A Surrey, B.C. man is pleading with whoever broke into his house on Friday to return his mother's ashes to him.

Stephen de Paras says he left his home near 184 Street and Fraser Highway for about two hours Friday night. 

He returned to find his front door broken open and house torn apart.

He says thieves didn't take much other than a laptop and safe from his bedroom.

"That was very upsetting but I had nothing of real value in it — a lot of personal pictures from when I was growing up, family photos and momentos."

But, when he took a second look around, he realized a very personal item was also missing.

"I saw they'd taken my mother's ashes too," he said through tears. "Why would somebody take somebody's ashes? I just don't understand it."

De Paras, an only child, lost his mother in 2015. 

Her ashes were kept in a box inside a purple velvet bag in his living room.

He says he was deeply hurt by the incident considering, in her final days, he had promised to take her ashes back to England so she could be with her family.

"We had made the plans, passports lined up and everything, and now she's gone — she's not going to get to go home," said de Paras.

"They were just ashes but they meant something to me and I had a promise to keep."

He reported the theft to Surrey RCMP who told him thieves may not have known ashes were inside the bag.

Because of its purple colour, de Paras hopes someone mistook it for a bottle of pricey alcohol.

To encourage the return, he has placed a large sign outside his front yard imploring whoever has his mother's ashes to place it into the box — no questions asked.