CALLOUS thieves stole a treasured birthday tribute to a tragic cyclist – in a third wicked graveside attack.
Hartlepool man and keen cyclist Micheal Phillips was killed while out on his bike in May last year at the age of just 29.
His family gathered at his grave on January 29 this year to mark his 30th birthday and his grave at Hartlepool’s Stranton Cemetery was covered in flowers and gifts.
But on February 9, his mum visited her son’s resting place and was devastated to find a thief had made off with a personalised plaque and a bike ornament.
It is the third time the grave has been targeted and the distraught family are fed up with being hit with further sadness when trying to come to terms with their loss.
Micheal’s mum, Deborah Mitchell, 51, said: “It’s bad enough losing someone so young without having their grave wrecked.
“His birthday was a beautiful day, we were up there setting off balloons and there were flowers and gifts. It was lovely.
“Now we just feel more heartache and anger. How can someone do this?”
Micheal was killed when he collided with a blue Ford Focus on the A1185, near Billingham, while out cycling on May 21.
He was taken to the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
The family of Micheal, who had been living in Grants Houses, Peterlee, at the time of his death, say he was always out on his bike and had travelled as far as the Lake District on two wheels.
The sign that was stolen features a bike and the words “Micheal who loved to cycle”.
It was bought by Micheal’s aunt Pauline Mitchell, 45, and the bike ornament was a gift from his granddad, Terrence Mitchell, 74.
Deborah, of Wensleydale Street, Hartlepool, said: “The things they have taken are no good to anyone. What will anyone do with such a personal sign?
“They might weigh in the ornament for scrap as it’s made of metal, but they’ll hardly get anything.”
Micheal also left behind dad Michael Phillips, 58, brother Leslie, 35, and sister Sallyann, 32.
The family are also still waiting for a full inquest to take place to find out the details of how Micheal came to die.
Teesside Coroner’s Court and its coroner, Michael Sheffield, have come in for criticism from families and politicians due to a backlog that is making people wait months to find out what happened to their loved-ones.
Deborah added: “We don’t even have a date yet. It’s coming up to a year and we just want to get it done.”
Police are investigating the theft and are appealing for anyone with information to get in touch.
People should ring PC Holly Angus, of Hartlepool Police, on (01642) 302110 or Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555111.