'Evil' thieves who stole from grave of brave Annabelle (2) return 'three bronze butterflies that represented three years of her beautiful life'
A grieving mum who was devastated when ornaments were stolen from the grave of her two-year-old girl has thanked independent.ie after they were anonymously returned.
Helena Kehoe desperately appealed for information after three bronze butterflies were callously stolen from the graveside of her brave little girl less than 24-hours after they were put there.
Annabelle Heather Kehoe was laid to rest in New Ross, Co Wexford in April 2014.
Born with a rare syndrome doctors said little Annabelle wouldn't live for more than three hours.
But against all odds, the courageous tot battled through and was just weeks away from her third birthday when she passed.
Her parents Helena (35) and Paddy Kehoe (29) placed "three bronze butterflies that represented three years of her beautiful life" on her memorial in St Stephens Cemetery at 3.30pm on Saturday, December 20.
However, when they returned to her graveside after 11am Mass the next day, "the symbols of her life" that they hoped to have in place for Christmas were gone.
The items had been professionally fitted with specialist screws and glues. But despite this, the "evil" perpetrators managed to remove them leaving three sizable holes that had been bored into the granite headstone.
Following an emotional appeal for information, little Annabelle's heartbroken mum Helena said knowing that someone had stood on top of her dead daughter's final resting place was "extremely heart-wrenching" for her and her husband.
"We call Annabelle's grave her garden. It is where we go to remember her.
"To think that someone stood on top of her and invaded her space is unbearable," she said following the theft.
"These took time to remove so someone was standing on top of her for a while. That makes it worse. It's extremely heart-wrenching," she added.
"Annabelle was full of innocence and pure love, the fact that someone would steal from her in life or death is just unthinkable. She did nothing to deserve it.
"She was so very special to all of us and to lose her was heartbreaking. We now remember her as a special little butterfly, precious and rare.
"The three beautiful bronze butterflies represented three years of our beautiful daughters life.
"The butterfly symbol was significant to us which is why we chose it. When she died, we noticed a number of them around the house and on the street and things.
"It may sound silly but we took it as a sign from Annabelle that she was letting us know she was ok," she said.
Following an appeal launched by independent.ie, that was later picked up by other media outlets, the items were returned restoring the couples “faith in humanity.”
“The butterflies made their way back to us yesterday evening and were left on Annabelle’s grave,” said Mrs Kehoe.
“We can’t thank you enough for your help.”
The family say that their faith in humanity has been restored and went on to thank all of those who had shared the story on social media for raising awareness.
“From the bottom of our hearts we thank you,” they said.
"The individual(s) who were responsible have obviously realised the hurt they have caused and their conscience got the better of them."