DEVOTED mother Joan Holland has visited the grave of her 16-year-old son every week since he was stabbed to death in Farnworth six years ago, leaving tributes, toys and angels so he wouldn’t feel alone.
But callous thieves — including Andrew Balshaw — would steal the tributes left for Andrew Holland, who was murdered after a row outside Ashys takeaway in Plodder Lane in 2007, leaving his family devastated.
Frustrated by the lack of police action, grandmother-of-six Mrs Holland and her family decided to take matters into their own hands — and catch the thief in the act.
The 50-year-old said: “There was so much stuff that went missing, something had to be done. The police hadn’t done anything about it.
“I’d thought about putting a camera over the grave, but someone suggested a tracker.
“On Good Friday I took a teddy bear and put a tracker inside it. I wrapped it up in a gold bow and stitched it back up. At 5pm the next day the tracker went off by sending an alert to my daughter-in-law Lisa Crinnin’s laptop, so we knew it had been stolen from the grave.
“We went over to the thief’s house, as the tracker took us stage by stage where the teddy was going. We had it set up on Lisa’s phone, and it took us straight outside his flat.
“My son Martin went outside first, then he and my other son called the police and asked them to meet us there.”
“They rang me back and told us to leave it and go and that an officer would be down within four hours — but we told them that wasn’t good enough.”
Officers were on the scene within the hour and arrested Balshaw. Tracker devices — which use GPS signals to send out their location — can be bought online for as little as £50.
Mrs Holland, who lives in Trentham Avenue, Farnworth, said that while they waited for police to arrest Balshaw, they saw items from other people’s graves in his bin.
She said: “There were little ornaments, flowers, and a wreath from someone else’s grave in his bin. Apparently he’d told his girlfriend he’d got it from the shops.
“I’ve been back to the cemetery and put more things on Andrew’s grave, there’s no way I’d leave it bare.
“I get some comfort out of getting him things. He was my youngest son — he would have been 23 in June.
“I’ve had to explain everything that happened to the police. It knocks you back down. It made me feel poorly.
“I just hope it deters other sick people from taking stuff from graves.”