Belfast Telegraph

Bangor woman raided cemetery to decorate her garden

By Sara Girvin

This is the Northern Ireland grave robbing woman responsible for bringing misery to dozens of grieving families.

Bangor woman Carol Ann McKnight has admitted stealing numerous precious mementos from the graves of loved ones buried at Clandeboye cemetery on the town’s Old Belfast Road.

McKnight decorated her own garden with stolen plants and ornaments. In a theft spree lasting around a year, 48-year-old McKnight stole:

  • ornamental bumble bees and robins
  • plant pots
  • ceramic planters
  • flowers and
  • windmills

At McKnight’s comfortable bungalow in the pleasant suburb of Carnalea — her love of gardening was clear to see as dozens of plants and pots decorated the front of her Henderson Avenue home.

On Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to 16 counts of theft at Bangor Magistrates Court — watched by several of the families whose graves she had robbed.

Defence solicitor Darren Duncan said McKnight had been experiencing mental health issues for “a long period of time”.

Outside court, distraught and angry family members shouted “shame” and “scum” at an emotionless McKnight as she got into her black Citroen car and drove off.

Speaking to Sunday Life, Bangor woman Catherine Fletcher told of the devastation McKnight had caused to her family since her father Edmond Bowrol was buried at Clandeboye last March.

In August 2010, a planter she had spent weeks sourcing was stolen from her dad’s grave. Discovering the theft, Catherine’s devastated mother spent hours pacing up and down the cemetery looking for it.

“My dad was a good man,” she said. “He never took a penny from anyone while he was alive, and here that woman is robbing him in death. I just don’t understand how anyone could do what she did. She’ll never know what she put us through.”

Catherine said she was asked by police a few months ago to identify her dad’s planter in a lock-up where she estimated there were 100 to 150 other plant pots and mementos.

“She was decorating her garden with them — it’s sick,” she said.

Catherine also believes McKnight was deliberately targeting fresh graves because she knew they would be better presented and decorated than older sites.

Another family, who did not wish to be named, told Sunday Life that they knew of a baby’s grave which had teddy bears stolen from it, while another family had planters stole by McKnight on nine separate occasions.

Following the thefts, two CCTV cameras were installed at the graveyard in October last year in a bid to end the crime spree.

Self-confessed thief McKnight will be sentenced next month following pre-sentence reports.

Source Sunday Life

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