Taking a heart away

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Family mourns the theft of man's ashes from Athabasca County home, grapples with property crime

It was like losing him all over again.

That is how Athabasca County resident Ursula Horn described the theft of the ashes of her late husband, Raimund Horn. The perpetrators also took jewelry, a record and CD player and a coin collection in the theft discovered July 27.

It took time to discover the ashes — located in a pouch within a box with Raimund Horn’s name on it — amongst all of the pulled drawers and other things taken, Horn said. But it was a shock to her.

“How low can you go?” Horn said. “You just go through like the first time, that’s about the best I can say. Why would anyone be even doing this?”

The theft occurred at the family home while they were away and could have occurred within a three-day period between July 24 and 27, according to Horn’s son, Simon Horn.

He was the one who first discovered the thievery, describing a smashed door window and every drawer in the house thrown open.

“So little of value here that is worth their time,” he said, adding he quickly reported the matter to RCMP who were nearby at the time, before later securing the scene.

Taken from before

It is not the first time the home was hit, according to the Horn family. Thieves also stole from them Nov. 29, 2016, taking Christmas presents meant for Horn’s great-grandchildren and a detached bathroom sink.

As far as Horn knows, the perpetrators were never caught.

“It’s such an invasion of your little, private little place. It’s disappointing that they haven’t been caught, as far as we know,” she said. “We don’t really know, that’s another thing. You don’t hear anymore about it.”

Horn has been living in the family home since 1964. She said others in the area have also been stolen from and people’s sense of security is changing.

“To think that there was a time — and it’s not that long ago — you go to the field, you’re gone all day and you don’t even lock your house,” Horn said. “Now you lock the door so nobody can go in.”

Sally Ells, Horn’s granddaughter, also lives in Athabasca County and echoed the sentiment.

“I got my house only seven years ago and they didn’t even have a key. They never locked the house,” Ells said.

Horn said she could not understand why someone would steal her late husband’s ashes or why they would not try to return them.

“This is such a low thing to do, because there is absolutely no value to them,” Horn said. “Whoever does this, such a personal thing. I just don’t have a word for it.”

Stephanie Ells, Horn’s daughter, said it is challenging to process why people would steal someone’s ashes.

“I can’t imagine such immorality, that they would not return these ashes when they found out what they had done,” she said. “That there is no one they love in their life, to hurt someone like that.”

She later added finding a fix to rural property crime is complicated.

“I know we like to blame the police and the judicial system, but obviously this is going somewhere deeper in society,” Ells said. “I’d like it to be an easy fix, but I guess it has to go deeper. It’s a morality thing.”

Sally Ells encourages people to keep an eye out for the pouch and return it to a church, funeral home or other appropriate authority if it is found.

“It’s just really unfair to have to grieve the loss of someone twice,” she said.

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Joseph Quigley