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Stonemason finishes Margaret Martin's headstone for free after cash stolen

By Sophie Inge

A family in Larne who were left devastated after burglars stole money saved up by their late mother for her gravestone, are now "delighted" after a stonemason offered to do the work for free.

The cash, which had belonged to 83-year-old mother and grandmother Margaret Martin, was taken from her daughter Elaine Wood's home earlier in January, leaving the family heartbroken.

Mrs Martin, who died from breast cancer, had saved up £800 to get her name and picture on her headstone.

After the theft, the family said the money was her "hard-earned cash, which she had put away, year after year", and they had resolved to pay for the work themselves.

Thankfully, though, they no longer have to.

After reading about the family's plight, Coleraine-based stonemason Tony Kneeland, decided to offer his services free of charge.

He approached the family via the Belfast Telegraph to offer his assistance.

"I came across the news online," Mr Kneeland, who runs Kneeland Memorials, told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I've been a funeral director and a stonemason for 20 years, and I was gutted for them. I just couldn't get it out of my head, so I decided to contact the family.

"I made the offer and didn't even think they would take me up on the offer, but she (Margaret's daughter) was delighted.

He added: "I've just started my own business this year so hopefully it will be good karma for the year to come.

"I'm going up to meet her and see the headstone Saturday week and we will discuss what she wants on it and I'll get the job done for her."

Speaking to the Larne Times, the woman's daughter, Elaine Wood, said it had restored her faith in human nature.

"This is a very, very nice gesture indeed," she said.

"It proves that there are people out there who are very kind.

"It's not a nice thing to have happened but at least some good has come out of it.

"It restores our faith in human kind.

"There are still good people out there, and it's nice to know somebody cares."

The family's home was just one of many houses targeted in a spate of burglaries in Larne and surrounding areas.

"We just want people to raise awareness and to encourage more people to be vigilant and to keep a wee eye out," she said.

"We would like to thank the local community for their kind wishes and thoughts, and of course Tony for kindly offering to do the work on my mum's grave for free."

Meanwhile, police are still appealing to anyone with information about the burglary to come forward.

A PSNI spokesperson said: "At approximately 3.05pm on Thursday, January 5, police received the report of a burglary at a residential premises in the Station Road area of Larne.

"A sum of money was taken from the property. Investigations are ongoing."

Anyone with information, or that may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area, is urged to contact Larne police station on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 630 on 05/01/17.

"Alternatively, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

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