A Woonona man who caused community outrage when he stole almost 500 brass vases from a Unanderra cemetery last month has also admitted to stealing vases off graves at Mount Kembla.
Brett Craig Buddle yesterday pleaded guilty in Wollongong Local Court to theft charges stemming from the two separate incidents, which occurred within a week of each other.
The court heard Buddle and a female co-accused made their way to the Mount Kembla Soldiers and Miners Memorial Church cemetery sometime between August 30 and September 1, where they stole 60 aluminium flower vases from headstones marking graves at the site.
Church volunteers discovered the vases missing on the morning of September 1 and reported the matter to police the following day.
However, in the meantime, Buddle and the woman had taken the vases to Unanderra’s Frontier Metals, selling them for $36 to shop owner George Cabezas.
Five days later, the pair made off with 496 small brass vases from the Wollongong City Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, damaging several memorial plaques in the process.
The callous theft drew condemnation from Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, who said he was shocked at the crime, which he described as ‘‘planned and intentional’’.
Several distraught relatives and friends of people buried at the gardens went to the site in the days after the theft to check whether the graves of their loved ones had been disturbed.
Buddle and the woman took the vases to Cringila scrap metal recyclers Steel City Metals, where they sold them for $206.15.
The company subsequently contacted police.
Mr Cabezas also contacted police after being alerted to the Unanderra theft by another scrap metal dealer.
Buddle and the female were arrested at a property in West Wollongong on September 6.
Buddle will face court again next month to be sentenced.
His co-accused, who also appeared in court yesterday, is yet to enter a plea.