11/08/2014 14:04 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Grieving Mum Hid Tracking Device In Teddy Bear To Catch Thief Who Robbed Son's Grave


A grieving mother caught a thief who stole tributes from the grave of her murdered son by placing a tracking device inside a teddy bear.

Joan Holland was so determined to discover who was stealing the items from her son Andrew's final resting place that she bought a £200 GPS device and stitched it inside the toy.

As a result, grave robber Anthony Balshaw was jailed for 12 months after he admitted stealing from 16-year-old Andrew's grave.

Andrew was stabbed to death outside a takeaway in 2007 and Joan visited his grave every Sunday to place items on it she thought he would like.

But she and her family became frustrated and angry that the gifts kept going missing.

After they found the grave completely stripped on Mother's Day this year, they decided to act. Joan's son Martin bought a £200 tracker and they stitched it into a teddy bear, leaving it on the grave in St Michael's churchyard, Bolton, Greater Manchester.


The next day, Joan's daughter-in-law received an automatic alert warning her the teddy was being moved and the family was able to track the teddy's route via GPS.

It led them to Balshaw's flat where police arrested him and recovered the bear, as well as other items including an angel which had been stolen from the grave six months earlier and a porcelain dog belonging to the family.

Joan, 50, said: "We went over to the thief's house, as the tracker took us stage by stage where the teddy was going. We had it set up on Lisa's phone, and it took us straight outside his flat.

"My son Martin went outside first, then he and my other son called the police and asked them to meet us there.

"They rang me back and told us to leave it and go and that an officer would be down within four hours - but we told them that wasn't good enough."

Officers were on the scene within the hour and arrested Balshaw.

Tracker devices - which use GPS signals to send out their location - can be bought online for as little as £50.

Joan said that while they waited for police to arrest Balshaw, they saw items from other people's graves in his bin.

She said: "There were little ornaments, flowers, and a wreath from someone else's grave in his bin. Apparently he'd told his girlfriend he'd got it from the shops.

"I've been back to the cemetery and put more things on Andrew's grave. There's no way I'd leave it bare."

The court heard that Balshaw, 48, had stolen the items to give to his girlfriend.


David Toal, defending, said: "They were, in effect, wholly inappropriate gifts to his partner."

Jailing Balshaw for 12 months, Recorder Jeremy Lasker, who described the Holland family's actions as clever and astute, told Balshaw his crime was 'heartless and callous'.

He said: "The public would be outraged if I did not pass a sentence of imprisonment on you.

"There is no doubt that this family have suffered severely by what you have done."