THE family of a young woman who died of an undiagnosed heart defect have discovered a bench dedicated to her memory has been stolen.

The handmade, solid oak bench was recently stolen from a spot overlooking Sandsend beach between Staithes and Whitby. It was in memory of 21-year-old Katie Sellers, from Whitby, who died suddenly in her sleep from a heart defect nobody had detected.

The distinctive curved bench was handmade by one of her friends shortly after her death about six years ago and now her family are appealing to people who may know of its whereabouts.

Katie’s mother, Julie Sellers, who now lives in Scarborough, said the theft had upset everyone, particularly Katie’s grandmother who commissioned the bench.

“It was placed on Sandsend seafront as it was a special place to us and I wanted somewhere beautiful where Katie's friends and family could go and remember all the good times we shared,” said Mrs Sellers.

“It had the smiley face emblem on as she was always smiling and making others smile.”

Mrs Sellers said one of Katie’s closest friends from childhood, carpenter Roy Gibson, had spent hours making the distinctive-looking piece, which had become a well-loved local landmark.

Mr Gibson, from Whitby, said he was at a loss to explain the theft of the bench, which had been set into concrete.

He said: “It’s a big bench. I just assumed I would find some remains on the beach somewhere, but nobody has seen anything. It just seems the whole bench has been lifted out of the concrete and put into the back of a van. Why would anybody steal a memorial bench?”

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire police said anybody who had information about the bench’s whereabouts, or who had been offered it for sale, should contact police on 0845 6060247, quoting crime number 1211 0170374.