Precious memorabilia worth thousands of pounds has been ransacked from a Rusper woman’s home around the same time as her funeral.
The family of Ngarie Calder have been ‘crying our hearts out’ after numerous war medals, silverware and other high value goods were snatched from the house in Horsham Road some time between last Wednesday (January 9) and Saturday morning (January 12).
During this time the house was empty as family and friends paid tribute to the popular village woman, who died at the age of 82 on December 29 2012, and was cremated at a service on Thursday.
Son-in-law Reg Roberts, 56, said he reacted with ‘complete and utter shock’ when he discovered with Ngarie’s daughter Jennifer on Saturday morning that the bungalow’s back door had been kicked in.
“After about 15, 20 minutes [Jennifer] just burst into tears,” he told the County Times: “We just find it shocking that someone could defile a dead person’s home. It’s hard enough getting over the loss.”
The couple called their daughter Hetty, who came round to help identify what had been stolen.
“Things were tipped out everywhere, there were muddy footprints throughout the house, cupboards left open,” said the 23-year-old.
“Immediately I thought it was someone local because it was the day after the funeral. There had been a sign in the village shop saying that she had been away.
“It makes you feel sick.”
Paying tribute to her grandmother, Hetty continued: “She was amazing. She spoilt her grandchildren a lot and was liked by everyone.
“She’s done so much in her life - more than I could ever do - she was a nurse, she made dresses, she was an air hostess.
“She always knew all the gossip in the village so if you wanted to know anything you could come here.”
Her grandparents built the home in Rusper and had lived there for around 50 years.
Hetty added that nothing like this has ever happened in the village before.
The stolen war medals, of great personal value to the family, belong to Hetty’s grandfather Stewart Calder - who was part of the RAF Squadron flying Beaufighters and Mosquito’s and her great grandfather Albert Calder - who survived both Gallipoli and the Somme and was discharged from the army in 1917 suffering wounds.
The haul includes the following WWI and WWII medals: Gallipoli Lapel Badge; Gallipoli Medallion; Identification mark A 334; British War Medal 1914 to 1918; Victory Medal; Battle of Britain Medal; Defence medal; War Medal 1939 to 1945; NZRAF Pin (New Zealand) and; Commendation for Services in the Air which is a large silver medal.
The family have launched an appeal for anyone with information to contact Sussex Police.
Reg said that while he is not certain of when the burglary took place, he is aware that a neighbour’s dog ‘went mad’ in the early hours of Saturday.
“We’ve been crying our hearts out. It’s a despicable crime,” he added.
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: “Police are appealing for witnesses to a burglary at a property on Horsham Road in Rusper between January 9 and January 12.
“The property had been broken into through a door at the back and items stolen.
“Anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area is asked to contact police on 101 quoting serial 0460 of 12/01/12.”