Family left devastated after heartless theft of brother’s memorial bench on Hayling Island

A FAMILY has been left ‘devastated’ with ‘nowhere to go’ to remember their lost loved one after a memorial bench they bought almost 13 years ago was stolen.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 7:00 am
The memorial bench laid in 2003 for former Hayling Islander Michael Clutton, pictured right
The memorial bench laid in 2003 for former Hayling Islander Michael Clutton, pictured right

Michael Clutton’s relatives were stunned to find a seat with a plaque bearing his name had vanished from its plot on Hayling Island when they tried to visit it on March 24.

Expecting to see the bench they paid more than £300 for after Michael’s death in 2006, they found a new bench in its place – with no explanation for its disappearance.

They now believe it was stolen sometime between visits in November, 2018 and March, 2019, after county and borough council investigations bore no conclusions.

Michael's family members toasting to him at the bench, following a memorial service in 2006

Mr Clutton, who was born on Hayling Island but later moved to South Africa with his wife, Diane, died aged 67 in 2006 and was later cremated.

His cousin Christina Pridmore, 62, said: ‘The bench was something that made us feel closer to Mike and it now feels like a part of him has gone. We're devastated.

‘I don't know why anybody would want to do this because the bench had been there for 13 years and it was screwed down into the floor.

‘I’m hoping somebody may have have seen something because the bench was right next to a car park – maybe that made it easy to lift it and throw it into a van.

The plaque which was on Michael Clutton's memorial bench

‘It’s somewhere, but I would hate to think it’s ended up on somebody’s bonfire.’

For more than a decade the bench sat facing the sea opposite The Olive Leaf pub, along Sea Front.

Until it vanished it it had been a place where Michael’s family members, who do not live locally, would go to reminisce old times.

Michael’s brother Peter Clutton, 71, said its loss was ‘so sad’ for the whole family.

‘I don’t understand why anyone would steal a memorial bench,’ he said.

‘I don’t think any of us realised how much it would affect our family, but it has done – quite a lot.’

Natalie Meagher, operations and neighbourhoods director at Havant Borough Council, said: ‘We have spoken with the family following the reported incident of the missing bench.

‘Both Havant Borough Council and Norse South East have no log of the bench being removed by our staff and can only conclude that sadly it may have been stolen.

‘We sympathise with the family and will continue to liaise with them to establish if they want a replacement to be installed.’

The authority said it would install a new bench at the family’s request free of charge, but the bench, and a new plaque, would have to be provided first.

In the mean time Michael’s family have launched an appeal to track down the original.

‘If anybody knows anything about the bench, even if they think it may not be anything special, please call the police,’ said Christine. ‘We just want it back in its rightful place.’

Hampshire Constabulary confirmed they received a report of the theft on April 11.

Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting the crime reference 44190125245.