Caretaker solves mystery of Claudy cemetery 'thieves'

BBC Newsline's north west reporter Keiron Tourish investigated.

The caretaker of a cemetery in the County Londonderry village of Claudy has said he believes he has unravelled a mystery that has baffled locals for weeks.

Thousands of ornamental stones had gone missing from five graves in the cemetery.

Some people feared it was the work of thieves.

But Kevin O'Kane said they were shocked to find that crows were the culprits.

"The first I heard of it was when a mother approached me and told me someone was taking the stones off her daughter's grave," he said.

"Another person happened to say the same to me a couple of nights later about his mother-in-law's grave.

"He also told me he had seen the crows."


The next morning Mr O'Kane witnessed the culprits at work for himself.

Bird brained?

  • Species in the crow or "corvid" family are very intelligent animals and capable of using tools
  • There are more than 120 species including jays, magpies, choughs and the common raven (the largest species)
  • Birds in the family inhabit every continent except South America and the polar caps
  • Most members of the family form strong mating bonds that, in some species, last a lifetime

Source: BBC Nature

"Another man who works along with me was there and we stood behind a tree and watched them - we couldn't believe what we were seeing," he said.

"They stripped the grave bare, it was unbelievable.

"Some crows stood on the headstone looking around while the rest were picking the stones off the grave.

"When they were finished picking, they moved on and the crows that were on top of the headstone then started picking at the stones."

He later met the mother of the young girl who had first flagged the issue of the missing stone.

"I told her we had found the thief - she said she was delighted," he said.

"She asked me who it was and I told her to come and I would show her.

"The crows were there stripping another grave, she couldn't believe it.

"I know some people are going to lift the stones and put down marble slabs.

"If they can lift that, by God, they are strong crows."


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