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Statue to dead Blackburn Rovers fan stolen and smashed by 'evil' vandals
A STATUE in memory of a Blackburn Rovers supporter was stolen from the club’s memorial garden, smashed into three pieces and thrown into a nearby river.
The heartbroken sister of football mad Stephen Johnston said those responsible were ‘evil’, while club chiefs described the damage as ‘deplorable’.
Mr Johnston, known as Skelly by his friends, died two years ago, aged 57, and family members moved the statue, one of his treasured possessions, from his home to the memorial garden.
But sister Maureen Fielding said she was devastated to discover the statue had been stolen from the garden in the corner of the car park behind the Riverside Stand.
Mrs Fielding, of Arkwright Fold, Blackburn, said: “It was there on Wednesday as my sister took the dog for a walk and saw it.
“But then a friend rang me a few days later and said it had gone.
“I went to look for it in all the back streets as it is heavy so I knew they couldn’t have got far with it.
“Then I spoke to a friend who works at Ewood and he asked if I had looked in the river.
“We had a look over the fence and it was there in three pieces.
“I just felt like crying when I saw it.”
The statue, which was made especially for Mr Johnston by friend Steve Swift and featured a Rovers supporter with his name on the back, was lying in the water with its head and base broken off.
Mrs Fielding, who is married to Brian and has three children and three grandchildren, said she did not know why anyone would want to vandalise the statue which meant so much to the family.
She said: “It was probably just kids, but they don’t think about what effect things like this have on people.
“It is quite evil really.
“Hopefully someone with a conscience will come forward and own up to what they have done.”
Mrs Fielding said her brother had been a huge Rovers supporter all his life.
She said: “It was the love of his life.
“We had a brick with his name put in the ‘Walkerfame’ behind the Blackburn End and there is a shirt in his memory in the Fox and Hounds pub.
“When he died it was such a shock to us all.
“We had a little ceremony in the memorial garden and scattered his ashes and we put the little statue in there.
“Before that it had been in the window of his house.”
Mrs Fielding said if she could recover the statue, which was in the river next to a sheer drop, or get a new one made she would not be keeping it at Ewood Park.
She said: “It will be going in my back garden. It is a shame to move it but I wouldn’t trust leaving it there again.”
Mr Johnston, who lived in Livesey Branch Road, was a dispense technician at Blackburn brewery Thwaites for 35 years.
Blackburn councillor and Rovers fan Ashley Whalley said: “Whoever has done this should certainly be showing more respect for the dead and in the process has managed to insult all Rovers fans, which is not a good move.
“This is just the kind of despicable act that gives Blackburn a bad name.”
A spokesman for Blackburn Rovers said: “We are aware of the deplorable damage to one of the statues in our memorial garden and will work closely with the family to try to resolve the situation.”