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By: Imran Ali

Imran Ali is a reporter for the Northern Advocate

Thieves didn't spare a late autistic boy's prized photos, money from his piggy bank and even opened his ashes' bag while his family was in temporary accommodation after their home flooded in July.

Distraught Whangarei mum Julia Tapp is pleading for the return of a hard drive that contained 3000 photos and a greenstone gifted to her 3-year-old son Ezra by his grandfather who have both since died.

Also taken from their house on State Highway 1 at the Portland Rd junction sometime early Sunday

was a mitre saw and a flat belt sander that Tapp had planned to make angel casts as memories for parents who lose a child.

She was inspired to do the work— free of charge— after a cast was made of Ezra's hands and legs when he died in 2014. She has been training to do it for the past six years.

Ezra, who had autism and could not speak, drowned in the Ohinemuri River in Waihi two weeks after his third birthday after slipping through an open gate that led to their backyard.

He walked 200m before reaching the river.

Dad Jason Tapp held his 3-year-old son and sang him his favourite lullaby after finding his lifeless body in the river following a search.

The Tapps have two sons and a daughter.

Also stolen from their home was a sound system worth between $20,000 and $30,000 used for music therapy for grieving families, electrical items, tools, a water blaster and even a car battery and its charger, and a clock off the wall.

"They cleaned the house. They knew what they wanted, high-value items they can sell quickly but if they can just get that hard drive back as it has photos of Ezra, not just when he was alive, but also of him lying in his casket.

"They've taken our last precious memories that we couldn't take with us after the flooding. Ezra's tablet was also stolen. They've taken things that we can never replace, even gone on to steal living children's toys like their bikes and scooters.

"Even if the thieves bring the hard drive and the pounamu back and put them in our letterbox. They don't have to show up. We can fundraise for the rest of the items.

"It was sad seeing our son's memorial ashes cupboard that had his saving tin and angel cast. They didn't even have the respect to move them aside. They've not just robbed us but taken a service from the grieving parents and relatives," Tapp said.

She estimates the total value of the items stolen was between $50,000 and $60,000.
The Tapps also run the not-for-profit Northland Arts' Centre in central Whangārei as a memorial for Ezra.

The arts' centre building they run was condemned after the July flooding, forcing them to move to a temporary site, which is now required for the Hundertwasser Art Centre project.

She has asked people on social media to keep an eye out for a PA system for sale on buy, sell and swap pages.

Her neighbours saw a van leaving their house about 1.30am on Sunday.

A police scene of crime officer was at their house yesterday

to take fingerprints.

A septic tank at the back of their house collapsed and when

drains and sinks began overflowing during the floods in July, the family was forced o seek temporary accommodation.

They stayed with friends for a few weeks, before their insurance company billeted them in a two-bedroom motel on August 12. Their temporary accommodation runs out in six weeks.

Tapp said their arts' centre has been nominated in the Westpac Business Awards, to be held in Whangārei on November 6, in the not-for-profit category and she had hoped to announce their angel cast initiative that day.

"We still want to do it that day if we get our mitre saw and the flat belt sander back. Everything else, I have it. They're worth about $2000. I am also going to approach hardware companies to see if they can help.

"It's not just the theft but the trash they've done. Every drawer and suitcase has been upturned and dumped on the floor and we can't begin to clean up because fingerprints need to be uplifted.

"The pounamu was given to Ezra by his grandfather who died after him. We were thinking of cutting the greenstone up so that each family member can have one each. Now it's gone."

She said the floodwaters saturated Ezra's bassinet that held his drawings and birthday cards.

"I am not actually angry. I am sad for my son's memory and for my family. Ezra's organ donation letters were in there so the thieves must have been so desperate to take our last precious memories. He was only 3 but he had 3000 photos."

Ezra's heart was suitable to donate valves to two or three infants of a similar age.

To further compound their woes, the New Zealand Transport Agency may require part or whole of their section once construction of a four-lane highway starts.

Donations to the Tapps can be made below by simply donating to the northland arts centre account (number below) with the reference (Angel donation)

Donations will go towards rebuilding the equipment lost in the robbery so we can continue our support services, thank you.

northland arts centre

Westpac

Whangarei

03-0498-0050960-000

Please Note: Northland Arts Centre is a registered charity, if you require a receipt for tax purposes please email northlandartscentre@gmail.com with a screen shot of your donation and include a reference number so we can find it. Thank you for your support.

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Please note: 1/10 John st is temporarily closed, we are located at 65 john st for now.

updated hours are on our contact page.

Art With Heart

Art with heart provides free or heavily discounted art lessons to our at risk and vulnerable children, public or special needs and respite clients. Our arts centre works as a drop in and respite arts facility along with being a provider of high quality courses. We focus on giving everyone a place, a belonging regardless of age or ability.

So far we have managed to give 50 free lessons and hope to double it next year to reach an even wider community. By donating to us you are ensuring families can afford art lessons or art therapy for their loved ones that would be accessible otherwise. Art is incredibly healing and can help relieve stress and deep seeded trauma associated with things such as violence or loss. Our creativity can be out best outlet.

Your donation is cherished, Thank you.

Art With Heart Programme

09-430-8392

021-252-4318

1/10 John Street

Whangarei

0110

northlandartscentre@gmail.com

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