Police have this morning recovered around 500 bronze vases stolen from a Unanderra crematorium.
The Wollongong City Memorial Gardens and Crematorium was targeted early yesterday morning with thieves removing small flower vases attached to memorial plaques.
Inspector Paul Allman of Lake Illawarra Police said a targeted operation had yielded information late last night which led police to an Illawarra metal dealer, where the vases were recovered.
Information from the dealer then directed police to a Wollongong address this morning, where a 46-year-old man and a woman were asked to assist police with inquiries.
‘‘We believe the thieves targeted scrap metal merchants, but the ability to offload such material is quite low,’’ said Inspector Allman.
He added police have special powers in relation to scrap yards, such as the ability to search and inspect their books.
‘‘This kind of crime was maximum heartache for minimum financial gain ... the theft was not of great value.’’
Police yesterday said 477 vases had been stolen, but further inspections at the crematorium today found that the number was closer to 500.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said many of the vases could be simply screwed back onto the memorial plaques, but almost 50 plaques were damaged from the vases being torn off the wall and may have to be replaced.
‘‘We are looking to work with families to restore the plaques,’’ said Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.
A sign at the crematorium said Wollongong City Council were dealing with manufacturers to replace the memorial plaques at a reduced cost.
‘‘To violate the sacred space of a memorial is a low act, and we are looking at stepping up security here.’’
The police investigation is ongoing, with Inspector Allman not ruling out the possibility of further suspects being involved.