'Sickening' attack on 185 Chairs Memorial

A LOW-LIFE ACT: The 185 empty chairs are a memorial to the earthquake victims. About 20 have been replaced due to theft and vandalism.
David Hallett
A LOW-LIFE ACT: The 185 empty chairs are a memorial to the earthquake victims. About 20 have been replaced due to theft and vandalism.

A Christchurch woman has offered to donate her late husband's wheelchair to a damaged earthquake memorial.

Thieves have stolen, slashed and vandalised the 185 Chairs Memorial to the region's quake victims.

The wheelchair donated by Cave Creek survivor Stephen Hannen to honour those left seriously injured in the quakes has been stolen from the Cashel St-Madras St site.

A LOW-LIFE ACT: The 185 empty chairs are a memorial to the earthquake victims. About 20 have been replaced due to theft and vandalism.
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
A LOW-LIFE ACT: The 185 empty chairs are a memorial to the earthquake victims. About 20 have been replaced due to theft and vandalism.

The latest theft and ongoing damage has sickened many Christchurch people, including Helen Grice, whose quake injuries left her a paraplegic.

Dorothy Vandermeer, 76, rang The Press today to offer help.

She said she had been "disturbed" by the memorial's vandalism.

"It was just horrible that someone would do that. I wanted to help if I could," Vandermeer said.

Artist Peter Majendie said about 20 chairs had been replaced because of theft or vandalism since the installation was first set up in Oxford Tce.

But the theft of the wheelchair, which disappeared three weeks ago, was particularly galling.

He said yesterday he was struggling to find a replacement.

Vandermeer said she wanted to donate her late husband's wheelchair as a replacement.

"I've had it in the garage since he died 12 years ago and it's not being used,'' she said.

''I'd really like it to go towards this cause. It's a decent wheelchair and it would be really nice to help."

Majendie was grateful for Vandermeer's "very kind" donation.

"Out of all the chairs, I thought the wheelchair was pretty special to also represent those who are in wheelchairs as a result of the earthquakes. It would be really nice to replace it," he said.

The white chairs represent the 185 people killed in the February 2011 quake.

Majendie said he had received many texts of support from people expressing their disgust at the vandalism.

PARAPLEGIC QUAKE VICTIM 'SICKENED'

Grice was "sickened" to hear of the recent theft of the wheelchair.

Grice was left paralysed from the bra-line down after she was crushed beneath her chimney in the quake and she believed the white wheelchair had acknowledged the seriously injured who were "lost between those who had died and the survival stories".

"It is hard enough to get up every day and try to live in a world designed for walking, but to have something that represented what we went through just stolen like that, it leaves me with a sadness and a sense of disappointment in human nature."

Grice felt the thieves had "violated an area that had a power and poignancy to it".

"After everything everybody has been through, I thought there would be some sort of common understanding as to what those chairs represent," she said.

Majendie is considering making a permanent - and more resilient - version of the memorial using casts of chairs out of resin aluminium, to sit in a shallow pool of black water.

Robert Gilbert, who lost his son, Jaime Gilbert, in the quake, said the vandalism and thefts were "a shame".

The Press