The crooks read about funeral service times in online obituaries, social media posts, newspaper obituaries before targeting homes
Recently three men were sentenced after they ransacked a house in Ballyclare while the occupants were paying their respects to a loved one who had passed away.
But the Sunday World can reveal this is not an isolated incident and opportunist thieves have been targeting more grieving families in the wider Co Antrim area.
Knowing they are out at a funeral, the thieves break-in – targeting homes without security alarms – and steal cash, jewellery, laptops, phones and anything else they think they can sell on.
Funerals had seemingly been viewed as off-limits to sticky-fingered thieves until now.
Concerned families are now organising house sitters to guard their homes while they bury their loved ones.
In the US there have been spates of these type of burglaries and in Boston the locals dubbed the thieves as ‘The Obituary Burglars’.
These ‘Obituary Burglars’ read about funeral service times in online obituaries, social media posts, newspaper obituaries, or wherever people share the information.
With Christmas around the corner and the cost-of-living crisis, not to mention an ever-increasing drugs epidemic across society, burglars are now desperate enough to hit homes of grieving families.
Thoughtless thieves are now using social media for details of local burials to plan for their next job.
Last Friday 40-year-old David Thompson, Stewart Pitchforth (39) and Samuel Ross (28) were sentenced at Laganside Magistrates Court following a burglary at a property in Ballyclare in July 2021.
Police confirmed the occupants had been at a funeral when their house was ransacked.
Thompson was sentenced to 10 months in prison, Pitchforth was sentenced to three months in prison suspended for 18 months and Ross was also sentenced to three months in prison suspended for 18 months.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Cooke said: “Shortly before 12.20pm, it was reported that entry was gained to a house in the Ballyrobert Road area of Ballyclare on Wednesday 21 July 2021.
“The back door of the property was damaged and the house was completely ransacked. A quantity of jewellery, furniture, electrical items and other household goods were taken during the incident.
“The fact the homeowners left the property to attend a funeral meant this ordeal was extremely distressing for them. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home.
“Through excellent work from CID detectives and Roads Policing officers, the suspects were identified through forensic examinations as well as the use of body-worn cameras to bring those responsible to justice.
“I hope this shows a clear message to anyone who thinks they can get away with this type of crime.”
Some residents in Co Antrim are so concerned they are now house sitting for friends and family to avoid further heartache.
“People in Ballyclare and surrounding towns have been made aware of a number of these robberies,” a resident from the Co Antrim town told us.
“One family I know went to a funeral and came back to find the house ransacked.
“How could anyone deliberately target a family like that knowing they had just laid a loved one to rest?
“Do they have a conscience? They’re bound to know the further agony that would cause.”
The same concerned person who contacted Sunday World told us townsfolk were now taking desperate measures.
“People are getting house sitters to guard their properties and some people are reluctant to go to funerals of friends.
“How sick are these people that you are scared to attend a funeral in case you’re house gets robbed?”
And we can reveal thieves in Coleraine are also targeting Christmas shoppers in supermarkets.
The town has seen a spate of women having their handbags stolen from their shopping trolley as they go round the shops buying groceries.
Social media posts have warned shoppers to be vigilant, stating that the people involved in the distressing practice are “pros” who know what they are doing and are clever enough to make sure they aren’t caught on CCTV.
One furious woman took to Facebook to say: “Just a heads-up folks, there’s people going round the supermarkets stealing people’s purses and bags from underneath them.”