A MAN has admitted handling a haul of precious ornaments stolen from graves over a four-year period.

Last October, Newton Aycliffe Police discovered a large quantity of cherubs, angels and other sentimental items at David Gary Ryan’s home in School Aycliffe.

Many of the ornaments had been reported stolen from graves in nearby West Cemetery, including those of babies and children.

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At Durham Crown Court today (Monday, April 28) Ryan, now of Hargreave Terrace, Darlington, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods between September 2009 and November 2013.

Paul Abrahams, prosecuting, said Ryan, 42, had previously denied theft charges.

“The reason we are accepting the plea to handling stolen goods is that we cannot provide evidence as to who took the items,” he added.

Judge Christopher Prince heard there were 14 victims, including Joanne Newman, who was horrified when she discovered glass ornaments and a commemorative plaque had been stolen from the graves of her baby sons, Caleb and Isaac, last September.

The young mother regularly visits West Cemetery with her husband, John, and their three daughters, Imogen, Ebony and Harmony.

“When we realised ornaments had been stolen we were mortified,” said Mrs Newman, of Newton Aycliffe.

“Every object you put on a grave is put there for a reason. It has a special connection to the person you lost.

“Caleb was still born and was my first child, a lot of the glass pieces were for him.

"Isaac was a little fighter. He survived for four weeks and the objects we chose relate to that.

“They were not of high value, but they mean a great deal to us.”

The Newman family and other victims have since been reunited with some of their stolen possessions.

Mrs Newman added: “I am just so pleased we reported the matter. In the past, when things went missing, we put it down to kids messing around. It is good to see justice being carried out.”

Judge Prince adjourned the case until Friday, May 30, for probation reports.

Ryan was remanded in custody to await sentence.