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The historic headstone was the last one of its kind at All Saints Church in Henley Brook.

Gravestone theft shocks family descendents

By Melissa Sheil

BOTH the parish and community of Western Australia’s oldest church expressed dismay when it was discovered that an artefact of Swan Valley history was stolen last Thursday.

A large wooden gravestone dated from 1884 was taken from the foyer of All Saints Church in Henley Brook with descendants of the deceased pleading for its safe return.

Graeme Lee, the great nephew of Henry Bisdee and his sister Emma Powell, whose deaths are marked on the gravestone, was contacted by his cousin about the theft and hopes a media campaign will help recover the family heirloom.

“Although I only discovered this side of my family through extensive family history research in 2015, this is a great memorial for my family and a part of local history,” he said.

“They were one of the pioneering families to the Swan colony.

“It’s unbelievable that someone would take something like this.”

The headstone is the last wooden one left from the cemetery and was moved into the church foyer after it started to deteriorate from weather damage in 2006.

All Saints Church Father Evan Pedrick said the piece was located in a publicly accessible foyer but was firmly attached to the wall with heavy bolts and a cast iron surrounding.

Father Pedrick, who lives in a cottage near the church, said his dogs were barking loudly on the night of the robbery but didn’t think anything of it.

“What astounds me is why anyone would go through so much trouble to get it,” he said.

“You can’t sell something like that without someone knowing that it has been stolen from a cemetery somewhere.

“It leaves a bad taste in your mouth when someone steals from a church, but I don’t know if the thief realised how much pain this has caused for the family.”

As Henry and Emma had at least eleven siblings, the church is often visited by descendants of the large family and the gravestone is a celebrated part of family history.

Bisdee descendent Vanessa Jessett said her family had a big presence in the area and still have a strong connection to the church.

“My great great grandfather and great great great grandfather came over as convicts in 1851 and though the family didn’t always have an upstanding reputation, they certainly made up a lot of the area,” she said.

“There are a lot of Bisdee’s in that cemetery including my uncle – I got married at All Saints, my children were baptised there and my parents had their vows renewed there.”

To the thief, Ms Jessett asks they reconsider keeping the item.

“I hope you do the right thing,” she said.

“We’re not interested in seeing you punished, we only want it restored to its rightful place.

“It’s a very valuable piece of history and I hope it survives whatever it’s going through now.”

A metal plaque inscribed with the churches history was also taken.

Anyone with information regarding the stolen headstone or plaque is asked to contact Ellenbrook Police or Graeme Lee on 0412802101.

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Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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