Grave of tragic sons is desecrated by thieves

Denise Taylor at the grave of her grandsons Shaun and Toby after sentimental items were stolen
Denise Taylor at the grave of her grandsons Shaun and Toby after sentimental items were stolen

Cancer mum’s anguish after flowers and treasured items lost.

A mum grieving the loss of her two sons has discovered their grave desecrated just weeks after she was diagnosed as seriously ill with cancer.

She spent a lot of money making it beautiful and different to what other people had, but it’s not about the money, those items were very personal to the boys and reminded us of the things they liked

Shaun Taylor, also known as Shaun Snape, died aged 15 in 2006, weeks after being diagnosed with the genetic heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy, which leaves the heart weakened and enlarged.

His brother Toby, a former Runshaw College student, died in February 2012 aged 19 from the same condition, after failing to find a heart for transplant.

They are buried in the same grave at Euxton C of E Parish churchyard off Wigan Road, Euxton, which mum Debbie Taylor decorated with flowers and ornaments.

The distinctive items included red and black artificial flowers, purple harlequin flowers, an ornamental black and red fish, a gold Buddah from Thailand, a small Rastafarian figure, candles and candleholders.

On Sunday the family discovered the items had been removed and the grave left bare, except for empty vases and a heavy ornamental dog.

Shaun and Toby’s grandmother, Denise Taylor, 67, spoke out on Debbie’s behalf, as the 43-year-old is ill with oesophagus cancer which has spread to her aorta.

Denise, a retired activities co-ordinator of Cornwall Avenue, Buckshaw Village, said: “The grave has been Debbie’s focus since Shaun and Toby died and making it nice was the only thing left she could do for them.

“She spent a lot of money making it beautiful and different to what other people had, but it’s not about the money, those items were very personal to the boys and reminded us of the things they liked.

“When we found out that they had gone we were horrified and so was everyone we know. Euxton’s a small place and everyone knows Debbie.

“She usually goes up every day, but because she’s been so poorly she’s not been for a little while.

“I was petrified of her going up and seeing it like that, so I went into Chorley and bought a few plants to put there instead.

“It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Debbie, but ofcourse the person whose done this doesn’t know about any of it. As a family we’d just got to the stage where we could speak about things without getting really upset, but now this has brought all the bad memories back.”

The family have conducted searches of the local area and asked church staff, who haven’t been able to help. Amanda Taylor, Denise’s niece, said: “I asked the groundsman and he said he’d not found anything, the vicar is none the wiser, and I asked other families tending to graves but they hadn’t been affected.

“We have no idea why this grave has been targeted, but we can’t believe that anyone has a grudge against the lads.”

She added: “The items are very distinctive and if they turned up in your garden or you saw them in a hedge, you’d know what they were. The best resolution would be that this appeal tugged on some heart strings and the items were returned to the grave.”

The theft has not been reported to the police, but has been reported to vicar of Euxton C of E Parish Church, who has condemned the theft.

Rev Grant Ashton said: “This is a very distressing thing to happen, but sadly we do not know what happened.

“It’s a very busy graveyard that lots of people walk through because there’s a public footpath and a railway bridge.

“I’ve not heard of anything similar in my seven months here, but we did have some graffiti in the graveyard recently, which was very distasteful.”

Shaun, a former Parklands High School pupil of Laurel Avenue, Euxton, was only diagnosed with the condition two months before he died on Boxing Day 2006.

He first felt unwell while helping his grandad Marshall lay bricks. After he began to cough up blood he was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital where tests, including a chest X-ray revealed he had the heart of an 80-year-old. He died after catching pneumonia at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital.

Toby was diagnosed with the same illness after being tested after Shaun’s illness came to light.

His condition was not as advanced, but in 2010 he was fitted with a mechanical pump which helped his failing heart, but he was told later his only hope was a transplant.

After falling ill in January 2012 he was taken to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital but died after undergoing a procedure.