Widow in tearful plea to burglars who stole late husband's ring from her house during his funeral
On August 3, 1963, Muriel Diffin slipped a gold signet ring onto her new husband Espie's finger.
Last week, 52 years later, Espie died and the ring was lovingly removed so that Muriel could have something of his to cherish.
But on Monday, as the heartbroken widow buried her beloved husband, burglars ransacked their home and stole the ring.
"They also stole money and other pieces of jewellery. They can keep the cash, they can do what they want with it. But I really want the ring back because it was Espie's. He was my one and only love," a devastated Muriel said yesterday.
The home in Milford, Co Armagh, was broken into shortly after the 83-year-old widow and a large crowd of mourners had left for her husband's funeral.
Returning home, a family member discovered the house had been ransacked, with cash, jewellery and the wedding ring missing.
"I bought Espie the ring. It's a gold ring with a red stone in it. It means a good lot to me. I just want it returned," she said.
Among a sea of sympathy cards on the coffee table in her home yesterday was a photograph of the smiling couple that was taken three years ago.
"Time goes so quickly. That feels like it was taken yesterday. He was a very good man, a very good husband. He was so easy to live with. I am lonely, I'm lost without him," said Muriel.
Muriel first met Espie when they were teenagers.
"I'm 52 years married. I first saw Espie going on the bus into Armagh. They had a farm up Irish Street and he was coming down and I saw him and I fell for him.
"We used to go to the Crozier Hall and Orange Hall for the dances and he would have danced with me. I was maybe 15-16. He was my first and only love. The only one I ever wanted. I remember him proposing to me on the balcony of the City Hall.
"Our wedding was a beautiful day and we went to London on our honeymoon," said Muriel.
She added: "We were very happy. We had our ups and downs. Who hasn't? But we had more ups than downs. We had a good life. He was a good man.
"He had always been fit and healthy. But he started to go downhill. On July 12 he was watching the band going up the street and he was awful looking.
"About three weeks ago, I got up in the morning and he was lying at the back of the chairs. We got the ambulance and he was taken to hospital. He got out in his coffin.
"I never thought he was going to die. I didn't want to think that. It is very, very hard without him."
Muriel said that leaving the house with her husband for the last time on the day of his funeral was extremely difficult.
"It was a very tough day. I didn't want to say goodbye. I miss him dreadfully," she added.
"It is a horrible thought that somebody was watching and waiting for us to leave so that they could come in here and steal.
"I was devastated when I realised the house had been broken into. My two nephews broke the news to me. I couldn't believe it. My bedroom was ransacked. I just felt devastated. I had just buried my husband and they ransacked the house," said Muriel.
The widow began to cry as she added: "Whoever did this, they must be very sad people.
"If I could speak to them I would tell them to stop and think about the heartache they are causing people."
A never-ending stream of family, neighbours and friends called to the terraced house yesterday to visit Muriel.
"It is lonely without him, but I have very good neighbours, friends and family. It really helps. Everyone is being so very good. All the young ones loved him. He was a very popular figure.
"I think it's unlikely I will get the ring back. But I want other people to be aware that this can happen. I don't want anyone else having to go through this."
Other items taken included a credit card, a brooch, pearls, a bracelet and a men's Limit watch.
Detectives have asked for anyone with information to contact them on the non emergency number 101.