A woman who hired a private eye to catch the vandal trashing her family grave was sickened when she discovered the culprit was – her cousin.
Sue Pullin, 67, called in a surveillance expert after her mother Mavis Budd’s resting place was repeatedly damaged over a three year period.
But she was disgusted when covert camera footage captured her cousin Amanda Lester trampling on flowers, pulling up blooms and pouring dirty water over the headstone.
Mrs Pullin called the police and Lester, 57, has now been convicted of criminal damage and given a conditional discharge.
Devastated Sue is still unclear what motivated her cousin, but suspects she was unhappy that Mrs Budd’s ashes were scattered on the same plot as her own mother.
She said: “It was horrible. I just didn’t know what I was going to find when we set up the camera.
“I was having sleepless nights and was so upset. It was tearing the family apart.
“When I saw it was Amanda it made me feel sick and I had to go outside to get myself together.
“The tape showed her putting all the flowers in a bag and throwing them into a copse.”
Mrs Budd was 89 when she died on December 27th 2009.
She was cremated and the ashes were spread at St Anne’s Church graveyard in Oldland Common, Bristol, in March the following year.
Mrs Pullin, a supermarket trainer, explained: “As soon as we put mum’s ashes down and put some floral tributes down, the trouble started.
“Everything was being damaged, taken away or destroyed.
“It was devastating for us and we had no idea who was doing it. We just assumed it was children.
“There was a bend in the graveyard I would go around and my stomach would lurch, because it was then I would see if anything had happened.”
Mrs Pullin and her retired husband Michael, 69, were so distressed that they contacted police who told the couple they would need evidence before they could act.
She said: “We had no idea who was doing it so hired a private eye.”
The couple spent #250 on a private detective, who recorded footage of Lester bagging flowers from the grave and dumping them in a nearby copse.
Mrs Pullin handed the video to police and Lester, whose mother is also buried at the site, was handed a caution.
But when the damage continued Mrs Pullin and her husband spent #100 on a motion sensor camera which they concealed in a hedge at the site.
Again, they caught Lester pouring dirty flower water over the headstone and stamping on flowers.
Lester, of Barrs Court, Bristol, pleaded guilty to criminal damage when she appeared at North Avon Magistrates’ Court on July 9.
She was handed her a six-month conditional discharge and ordered her to pay #85 costs, a #15 victim surcharge and #8.50 compensation to Mrs Pullin.
Mrs Pullin says she has never received an explanation of Lester’s actions but believes it is down to the shared burial plot.
She explained: “What’s really sad is that when Amanda’s mum died she asked my mum whether it was OK to bury her in the family grave and she said yes.
“At that time my mum said that is where she would like to buried as well. We can only assume she didn’t like that mum was buried there.
“As far as we were concerned there was a good relationship between Amanda and my mother.
“Her mother would come and help me look after mum when she was bed-bound and take in her meals to help me out.
“The relationship is irreparable now. How can you forgive someone who has done that?”
Sine the court date, the grave has been left untouched.