Man devastated as thieves steal wreath marking first anniversary of dad's death
The family of a Co Tyrone pensioner have expressed their disgust after a wreath was stolen from his grave.
Aaron O'Driscoll (22) had placed the floral tribute, in the shape of a horse's head and worth €350, on the grave of his father Johnny to mark the first anniversary of his death.
He was distraught to discover a fortnight later that the wreath had been taken from Killeenan graveyard near Cookstown.
John O'Driscoll was also the victim of crime shortly before his death in July of last year.
Nearly £300 worth of heating oil was stolen from his home as he lay dying in hospital.
Mr O'Driscoll, a father-of-four from Cookstown, passed away on July 15, 2018, aged 72 after a short illness.
He had been admitted to Craigavon Area Hospital on June 21 and, while he was lying gravely ill, cruel thieves targeted the pensioner's rural home on the Dunnamore Road.
They stole an estimated 500 litres of home heating oil just weeks after the tank was filled.
While Mr O'Driscoll had lived in the Republic for 40 years, he decided to move back home to Tyrone to be closer to his family in October 2017.
Aaron's mother Patricia Gilbert, who was with his father for almost 20 years, had driven the pair over three hours from their home in Co Meath to the grave to lay the wreath on the one-year anniversary last month.
When they returned for another visit last weekend they were shocked to find that it was gone.
Patricia told the Belfast Telegraph: "Aaron had spent a lot of time and money arranging to have the beautiful wreath made as a special tribute to his dad.
"He had seen it in a florist shop in Clane, Co Kildare, which is the only place in Ireland that makes this type of wreath.
"He thought it would be ideal as his father liked the odd wee bet on the horses and he got it made in red and white in honour of the Tyrone GAA colours."
Patricia said the family believe the floral tribute was taken some time between Thursday, August 1 and Saturday, August 3.
"We drove up from Meath on the anniversary with the wreath but when we went back up to visit the grave last Saturday it was gone," she said.
"Aaron's aunt Bernie told us the wreath was there when she visited on the Thursday but when we arrived at 10am on the Saturday it was gone.
"We knocked on a few doors nearby and made a few calls, but no one seemed to know anything so sadly we can only assume that it was stolen."
Patricia said her son was gutted that someone has taken something so precious in memory of his father.
"To have made this awful discovery on the first anniversary of his father's death has been really terrible for Aaron and only adds to his pain," she said.
"Aaron is absolutely devastated and heartbroken and he is a young man who is still grieving for his dad.
"Even though myself and his father were separated and Johnny had moved up to Northern Ireland in the months before his death, Aaron was always very close to him and they still had a brilliant relationship.
"For this to happen is just so horrible as the wreath was Aaron's way of saying thank you to his dad for all he had done for him down the years."
Patricia branded those who took the wreath as "the lowest of the low" and urged them to do the right thing by re-instating it on her ex-partner's grave.
"For someone to take flowers from a family grave is just heartless," she said.
"Those who did this are absolute low-lifes and scum.
"Aaron had written his name on the wreath along with a lovely little poem so whoever took it would have known that it was from the man's son.
"I just hope that this appeal might trigger someone's conscience to go and put it back on the grave where it belongs.
"First Aaron's father was dying and his heating oil was robbed and now they take the wreath off his grave - it's just heartbreaking," she added.