09/09/2014 10:05 BST | Updated 09/11/2014 05:59 GMT

'Britain's Biggest Family' Mother's Stillborn Grave Robbery 'Shock'

The grieving mother of 'Britain's biggest family' has described her "shock and sadness", after her stillborn baby son's shoes were stolen from his grave.

It is the latest cruel blow for the Radfords, from Lancashire, who were made famous by Channel 4 television documentary '16 Kids And Counting'.

Baby Alfie was born dead in July - a second tragedy within a year for the family, who suffered a late miscarriage months earlier.

They announced they were expecting a seventeenth baby in summer 2013, but sadly lost that one last September. Then Alfie - 'baby 18' - died in July.

Sue, 39, was "ecstatic" to be pregnant again, with her "little miracle" and was thrilled to be expecting a boy, who was due this November.

But their joy turned to despair when they were given the earth-shattering news that he had died in the womb, at around 21 weeks.

A pair of tiny baby shoes had been left on little Alfie's resting place by his grandmother. She had bought them for him before he passed away, after a scan revealed he was a boy.

On Thursday, the family discovered that the beloved blue booties, which were wedged between teddies to secure them, had disappeared from his gravesite.

She posted to Facebook followers: "I'm really trying to get my head around why anyone would do this, I'm feeling so shocked. My mum and dad took some flowers and some tiny blue shoes up to Alfie's grave she had bought them for him when we found out we were having a boy and they've been taken from his grave! Why on earth would anyone do that? I'm so shocked and saddened that they've gone."

Many of the page's 112k fans left sympathetic messages of support, including suggestions that perhaps the gifts were taken by a squirrel, fox, bird - or even 'an angel came down to collect them for beautiful Alfie'.

In response, Mrs Radford, said: "I'm just hoping and praying nothing else goes I just want his shoes back it's heartbreaking they've gone.

"We've looked all over the cemetery for them and in bushes but they've gone I'm just so shocked because he is in a beautiful cemetery and in a quiet area with not many graves around him it really was the last thing we expect just feel so sad they've gone."

Supermum Sue has had a baby every 17 months for 24 years. They have nine other sons and seven daughters.

The family, from Morecambe, announced that Alfie was stillborn on July 6.

A Facebook post read: "Our beautiful baby boy Alfie Thomas was born sleeping at 7.53am today. He was so perfect in every way.

"Our hearts are breaking, you will always be a huge part of our lives, Alfie, know that we loved you very much."

On the day of his funeral, they updated their status with a poignant message to him: "We are so proud to be your mummy and daddy and I feel so blessed to have felt your kicks and kissed your beautiful lips we will miss you every second of every day, Alfie fly high sweetheart we all love you so very much."

Sue and husband Noel met as childhood sweethearts. They run a bakery business together, live in a former children's home and use a mini bus as transport.

Their daughter Sophie, 20, who was pregnant at the same time as her mother, is due to give birth in October. This will be Sophie's second child and a second grandchild for the couple.

In a tragic twist, Mrs Radford had blogged about how comforting she found being pregnant alongside Sophie and how she was calmer this time, declaring: "I was worried history would repeat itself but I tried to have the attitude of what would be, would be but I just felt in my heart that this little one was meant to be."

Days before his death, she blogged after a scan: "Baby was playing with the cord and drinking and sucking it's thumb it was so sweet but the main thing and the only thing we wanted was to hear baby is all healthy which so far everything is looking brilliant."

Mrs Radford is up for an award for her blog posts, about life as a large family, and will attend a ceremony later this month, to see if she is a competition winner.

A new television series, with the working title of '17 Kids and Counting', was being produced over the summer. It recorded the pregnancy and preparations for Alfie's arrival - before the heart-rending outcome. But the Radfords have been filming again very recently. The show was scheduled to be aired in late 2014 and is assumed to be going ahead.

It is not clear if the couple will try for another baby.