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Conception Bay South grave robbery shocks neighbour

The area of All Saints Cemetery in Foxtrap where a grave was dug up last weekend. As of Thursday, the cemetery was still being treated as a crime scene by the RNC, and its entrance was cordoned off with police tape.
The area of All Saints Cemetery in Foxtrap where a grave was dug up last weekend. As of Thursday, the cemetery was still being treated as a crime scene by the RNC, and its entrance was cordoned off with police tape. - Joe Gibbons

Human bones unearthed in Foxtrap will be reinterred in rededication ceremony

CONCEPTION BAY SOUTH, N.L. —

Samantha Hawley’s view from her back deck across a field is of a centuries-old graveyard cordoned off with yellow police tape being guarded by a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary rookie officer.

When the real estate agent asked Hawley and her husband a couple of years ago whether living next to a graveyard would bother them, she said no.

It would have been unfathomable then to imagine the mostly 19th-century graveyard with its spectacular view of Kelly’s Island as the scene of a grisly crime.

“You read about these kinds of things down in the States, but to happen so close to home … it’s pretty crazy,” said Hawley, who had served the young man accused in the case at a nearby convenience store the same weekend he is alleged to have interfered with a grave at the All Saints Cemetery in Foxtrap.

‘The thought of it is quite disturbing.”

The sloped graveyard borders a beach and a steel tank manufacturing plant, as well as a vacant field that separates it from Hawley’s property.

No one is allowed in the graveyard and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is unable to say when it will be released as a crime scene.

According to a report Friday by Telegram reporter Tara Bradbury, sources say the man charged with possessing stolen skeletal remains from the Conception Bay South cemetery was arrested last week after he allegedly attempted to boil the bones and drink the water.

The details of the allegations against Lucas Dawe, 20, have not yet been presented in court, but documents indicate he is charged with possessing a skeleton stolen from All Saints Parish on April 5, as well as interfering with human remains the same day. Dawe is also facing a charge of breaching a court order.

After the incident, human remains were confirmed located along the T’Railway, near Foxtrap around 1 a.m. on April 6, after police responded to a call for service in the area.

The RNC's major crime unit, in consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, determined earlier this week the partial skeleton was “quite old” and not connected to any current missing person cases. Police said they were also not concerned about any potential danger to the public.

“With all the robberies in town and Conception Bay South, for this to happen on top of all that, Newfoundland and Labrador is worrisome,” said Hawley, who is shocked by the crime next door, but isn’t considering relocating.

Hawley said the area is usually quiet, but in the summertime the graveyard has a steady stream of weekend visitors — people bringing flowers and paying respects to relatives who have passed on, even though the graves are old.

“There’s a constant stream on Sundays in the good weather,” she said.

“Other than that, I hear a turkey or a chicken clucking every now and then.”

According to the Newfoundland’s Grand Bank website, the graves range in date from the 1700s to the early part of the 1900s. The deceased, like a typical graveyard marking the pathos of life, range in age from seven months to 92 years old, according to the website.

This older graveyard with its leaning tombstones is on a separate laneway away from two more modern cemeteries belonging to All Saints that are across the road from each other. Those newer cemeteries remain open.

Hawley said she often walks the neighbourhood of the T’Railway with her 20-month-old son and is alarmed at the disrespectful handling of the remains.

“To be asleep so close to something so disturbing — in C.B.S. of all places,” she said.

‘Unfortunate event’

Rev. Sam Rose, executive officer for the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, said he’s never heard of such an incident.

“This is the type of thing you never can imagine happening. You kind of hear about it happening in sort of fairy tales and stuff. It’s quite an unfortunate situation in which a young man with troubles (allegedly) decided to take this action,” Rose told The Telegram.

“It’s a sad, sad situation. We certainly want to pray for this young man in this time of distress in his life.

“We don’t hold any ill will against anyone struggling with his issues. Certainly this is an unfortunate event. It’s just that — it’s an unfortunate event.”

Rose said when the remains are eventually no longer required by the RNC investigation — whenever that occurs — they will be reinterred with a memorial ceremony.

“It’s certainly our intention once this investigation is concluded, these remains will be reinterred with the proper dignity and respect that they were when they were initially interred many, many years ago,” Rose said.

The Anglican Church maintains thousands of graves across the province, he said, and it’s the first time in 20 years of being ordained that he has heard anything like it. He has worked in the bishop’s office for about four years.

“The most controversial thing we have would be someone cut the grass wrong on the grave or something like that, these type of minor things,” Rose said.

“From our end, our responsibility is the care and perpetual care of these graves, which we do. When someone enters illegally and has desecrated the grounds, we will actually be directing the clergy when they receive the remains back to do another proper rededication of the grave.”

Rose explained the church often does ceremonies for people who are cremated, but want to be interred near loved ones, or else on occasion a construction project might disturb a gravesite. As well, some bones that were the subject of a university study are being given back this summer to be reinterred in Conception Bay North 20 or 30 years after being discovered. That service will be presided over by Bishop Geoff Peddle, Rose said.

This extraordinary case will get the same respect as those.

Rose also said the Foxtrap cemetery, though old, continues to be a place where family members pay respects to their loved ones, and the church endeavours to make sure its cemeteries are safe and cared for.

“Every summer there is an annual graveyard service or commemoration service. People come back — generations of the families — to pay their respects to their departed loved ones,” he said.

“I haven’t spoken to any of the descendants of these people whose bones were removed … but I would want their families to be reassured the same dignity that was bestowed upon them initially will be done again. You never want to think about this, but unfortunately this has happened. We will treat this like any funeral we would have.”

From what Rose has gathered, the deceased was interred in a mausoleum-style grave with a type of concrete top.

“When I say the grave, this is your final resting place; we kind of hope that’s the case. … The Christian faith teaches us our final resting place is actually heaven. We believe that, yes, earthly remains are here, but the Christian faith teaches us you live forever in eternity in heaven. … This situation is so sad. But yet our faith is not shaken,” said Rose, who as a student summer job used to mow cemetery lawns and knows the importance of their maintenance to the descendants, no matter how many years have passed.

“Memory lives on. We want to make sure when people return to the resting places of their loved ones, that they return with a sense of knowing even though they have departed this life, their earthly remains are still cared for and respected.”

barbara.sweet@thetelegram.com

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