Widower's joy after stolen mementos of late wife Diane Rodgers recovered after burglary
Exclusive: Vigilance of neighbours and police ensures return of poem and pictures
A devoted husband has spoken of his relief that a special poem and treasured pictures of his deceased wife stolen in a burglary at his home have been recovered, thanks to the vigilance of neighbours and swift action by police.
Andy Rodgers (54), from Coleraine, revealed the revered family snaps and poignant poetry are of great sentimental value as the prose was penned by his wife Diane just before she tragically passed away from cancer.
The touching seven-verse poem entitled There's Nothing The Matter With Me, tells how a person with illness hopes for the best.
The Rodgers' home at Willowfield Avenue in Coleraine, was targeted in the early hours of last Saturday, just two days before Mr Rodgers and his daughter Jenna (20) and son Shane (18) were due to have marked what would have been Diane's birthday.
With the stress of the break-in hanging over them on Monday, he said their plans to remember Diane were upset as at that stage the personal items had not been recovered.
Mr Rodgers, who is a well-known Elvis impersonator and a part-time chef at Coleraine's Lodge Hotel, told the Belfast Telegraph the stolen items were all returned on Tuesday night and he believed a suspect had been spoken to by police.
Originally from Leeds, Mr Rodgers has been living in Northern Ireland for 26 years.
He was out doing an Elvis tribute gig on Friday night and only returned home about 3am on Saturday and was asleep in his bed when the burglars struck.
Mr Rodgers said: "They took a TV, several possessions and bags, A-Level work my son had, plus my daughter's bag, money and personal things from my deceased wife.
"They took a poem of Jenna's that her mum had written just before she passed away.
"They took the bag with my daughter's purse in it with £25 in it. The poem and photos were in her purse.
"There was a poem Diane had written on a piece of paper which probably means nothing to anybody else, but means so much to my daughter.
"It was very sentimental. And there were photographs which can never be taken again of Jenna and Shane with their mum. Thank God that has all come back."
Mr Rodgers said Diane passed away eight years ago from cancer and would have turned 48 on Monday.
"It would have been her birthday a couple of days after the burglary. We couldn't really think about her birthday and do what we normally do on her birthday because we were that wrapped up with the burglary.
"It really did throw us into a real whirlwind," he said.
He added that the impact of the break-in could last for some time: "We feel as if we are very vulnerable now. Your home is not your castle any more, it has been intruded. To actually walk into your house and do that and take things that are so important."
Mr Rodgers said his neighbours had rallied round and been of great support and he understood an arrest had been made. He said a neighbour's CCTV had been of use and it was believed a suspect made a getaway by stealing a bicycle.
The relieved widower said a woman's car was broken into around the corner at the same time and a handbag was taken.
"Talk about power to the community. The neighbourhood rallied round and that is how we got so much information to the police.
"The police did their bit, don't get me wrong, but it was through the neighbours and everybody else coming forward otherwise we could have been sitting there traumatised for months."
A PSNI spokesman said a 21-year-old man has been charged with burglary and theft and is expected to appear at Coleraine Magistrates Court in May.