Belfast Telegraph

Mum’s heartache as thieves take mementos from her baby’s grave

The headstone at Tmara-Rose’s grave in Kernan Cemetery
The headstone at Tmara-Rose’s grave in Kernan Cemetery
Tmara-Rose’s birth with mum Kelly Watson, her partner Chris and her children
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

A devastated mother who lost her baby girl at birth has told of her heartache after thieves took treasured memorabilia, including a black stone inscribed with a poem, from her daughter's grave.

Almost four years ago Kelly Watson (31), who shares a home with her partner Chris in Laurelvale, Co Armagh, lost her baby Tmara-Rose less than 30 minutes after birth.

But she was left stunned when she discovered that the black stone, along with several plaques and solar-powered lights, had been stolen from her daughter's graveside in Kernan Cemetery.

Ms Watson, who has three other children - a 12-year-old boy and two girls aged 10 and five - has said the theft has left her wondering if she will even be able to mark the anniversary of Tmara-Rose's death the way she wants to.

"I'm emotionally drained by what has happened and I haven't had much sleep this week," said Kelly, who visits her daughter's grave regularly. "It's Tmara-Rose's fourth birthday in two weeks' time and now I really don't know whether to put her presents on her grave or not."

When Ms Watson was 23 weeks pregnant she was told that her unborn child was suffering from congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) - a rare illness.

The little girl was born on October 11, 2015 - at just 32 weeks into term - but she only survived for what her heartbroken mum described as 28 "precious moments".

In the aftermath, Ms Watson admitted she has been keeping a vigil at her daughter's grave at night, sometimes staying for hours at a time.

"I have been back and fourth at night-time in pitch black checking on the grave," she told ArmaghI.

"If I could I would stay out all night but I also have three other children who need me; I couldn't have got this far without my three kids, knowing they need me.

"But the heartache never leaves me, it sticks with me every day that I couldn't save my baby."

Following the theft last weekend, Ms Watson vowed to check "my baby's grave and loved ones' graves if I can every evening".

She added: "This can't be happening; we do our best to do what we can for a baby as it's all we have left, her graveside and my memories with her."

And she stressed that her children will continue to be her reason for living.

"I've four kids, not three, and just because my Tmara-Rose isn't here doesn't mean she won't get for her birthday or Christmas," she said. "My kids will be my priority through everything."

Ms Watson described those behind the theft as "scum" because they carried out such "a sick" act on a baby's grave.

A spokesperson for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council said: "We would wholeheartedly condemn theft from any grave within our cemeteries and would appeal to those involved to return this important memorabilia.

"The cemetery is manned during the day. However, as most people will understand, cemeteries are large, open sites which cannot be fully monitored continuously.

"As this is a theft of personal items we would urge the family to report this matter to the police."

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