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THE small village of Churcham was devastated this week after the grave of its most famous son Henry Hook VC was callously desecrated.
Thieves have stolen the monument marking the Zulu Wars hero’s grave in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Churcham.
Hook was one of 11 soldiers awarded the VC in the 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift, immortalised - if inaccurately - in the Michael Caine film Zulu.
In what the police believe was a meticulously planned heist by an organised gang, the five foot high solid marble carving, weighing up to a quarter of a ton disappeared between May 11 and 18.
But, in spite of the muscle power needed to carry such a heavy object out of the churchyard, none of the neighbours heard or saw anything suspicious.
Church warden Paul Charter said: “This was pure sacrilege. I can’t believe it was removed without anyone seeing or hearing anything. It was obviously planned down to the last detail by a very organised gang."
Hook’s great niece, Shirley Fowler from Highnam, said: “I am absolutely devastated. How could anyone have stooped so low as to do such a thing like this.
“I feel so sad about this. I really hope they catch the people who did this.”
Forest Police Inspector Andy Hodgetts said: "The community hold Henry Hook with great regard and he is cherished by them for his bravery at Rorkes Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War.
"This theft has ticked me off no end. Items stolen from a shop are replaceable but this is completely different situation.
"The memorial stone is worth a lot more to the community than any value placed on the stone.
"I appeal to those responsible to consider the impact this theft will have on the local community and return the memorial.
"We are currently carrying out an investigation and doing all we can to apprehend the culprits."
If you can help Gloucestershire Police with their enquires contact them on 101 or anonymously on Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting incident number 262 of May 19.[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]