A not so merry surprise greeted Ann White on her regular Christmas Eve visit to her daughter's grave site at Timaru Cemetery.
After nearly 23 years of being untouched, two flower pots that adorn her daughter's headstone, and the bouquets of artificial flowers inside, were stolen.
Mrs White is upset by the ill-timed theft, but what hurts the most is the fact the flowers were taken from a child. Colleen was 12 when she died.
"I can look at her pictures, but I can't put my hands around her. Flowers are all I can do to show my love. How can people do that, take from a child's grave?"
Mrs White has been visiting her daughter's grave every anniversary, birthday and Christmas since Colleen's death in 1991.
Her husband died last year and lies in the plot next to their daughter. She said her husband was not a flower person, so they put fresh flowers in the middle of her daughter's grave for him.
She said they took precautions to ensure the flowers stayed in place by weighing the pots down with shingle and tied the flowers together with wire underneath the lid.
When she discovered the existing flowers and pots were missing, Mrs White said she searched around other rows in the cemetery but could not find them.
This isn't the first time she had heard of decorations placed on graves being taken and the thought of it happening to other children's graves makes it even more cruel to her.
"Nobody should be allowed to steal from any child," she said.
- The Timaru Herald