Burglars have ransacked the family home of a Chorley soldier who was killed in Afghanistan, and stolen precious keepsakes.
Devastated Annette Markland has branded the people responsible ‘rotten to the core’ after they stole a gold cap badge and wrist rank that belonged to her only son David, 36.
To make it worse, they raided her Euxton home just days before the first anniversary of his death.
The Warrant Officer, described as a ‘true legend’ and ‘a bear of a man’, died while clearing routes of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Helmand Province.
Annette had kept the gold regimental badges on top of a bible next to an urn containing David’s ashes, and a large photograph of him smiling.
They also raided another bedroom, and stole gifts that David and his sister Lorra had bought their grandmother, and jewellery belonging to her husband Barry, who died in 1999.
Devastated Annette, 59, said: “The people who have done this are scum – absolute scum of the earth.
“I don’t know how anyone could take the badges off the top of a bible, when they could see that they were next to an urn and a big photograph of David.
“They can’t be any use to them, but we will never be able to replace them. They were priceless to us.
“I’m sure we would be able to get a new set, but they won’t be David’s and it just wouldn’t be the same. I’d do anything to get them back.”
Annette, who will mark David’s anniversary by laying flowers at his grave, and that of his young daughter Sophie, who died of meningitis when she was just two, said she returned home from work to find her back door smashed.
She added: “I had just done a 12-hour shift and I pulled up on the drive and tried my key in the door, but it wouldn’t turn.
“I thought I had managed to go to the wrong house, and then I heard the freezer alarm. I couldn’t understand what was going on.
“The back gate was slightly open, and then I saw that the patio door had been smashed with a plant pot. There was glass everywhere.
“I didn’t dare go inside because I was scared the burglars could still be in there, so I went and banged on a neighbour’s door and then rang the police.”
Annette said she was shocked when officers took her inside the family home, where former Parklands High School pupil David had grown up as a teenager.
She added: “Every single cupboard door was open in the kitchen, as well as the fridge and the freezer. The living room didn’t look too bad, but they had been through all the drawers on the sideboard where I keep David’s ashes, and had taken my money from my handbag.
“I was really scared they would have taken his ashes or knocked them over in a rush. I was relieved that they were there and intact.
“It wasn’t until I got back to my sister’s house later that night that it dawned on me that his things had gone. I was heartbroken.”
Upstairs, the thieves had completely ransacked her three bedrooms, and they had emptied the contents of most of the drawers on to the floor and her bed.
She added. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There was stuff everywhere, and it was hard to work out exactly what they had taken.
“They had taken a box that was full of jewellery that my husband Barry had bought me before he died. They also took a watch he had given to me, and his chain which he had loved.
“Anything that was gold they took. I still don’t know every single thing they have stolen as I had been given most of it as presents over the years. I’m so angry and upset.
“I just want to know who has been in my house, and why they would do something like this?”
Annette is now refusing to keep any jewellery in her semi-detached home, and she has stepped up security and had a full alarm system fitted and all of her locks changed.
“I won’t have any gold in the house now as I just can’t bear to go through this again,” she said. “The things they have taken all had memories. They were priceless.
“They had also taken a digital camera, which pictures on it from a memorial service at Invicta Park Barracks, where Dave was based with his wife, Corallee, and sons, Keelan and Logan, and of a homecoming we attended for some of his comrades. It’s so sad that they have gone.
“The past year has been really tough.I had just marked Barry and Sophie’s birthday, and was preparing myself for David’s anniversary. They couldn’t have struck at a worst time.
“I keep thinking the people who did this must have their own mums. How would they feel if something like this happened to them? They are rotten to the core.”
Anyone with information about the burglary should contact Chorley Police on 0845 125 3545, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.