Dagenham flower thief suffered depression after son’s death

A widow who stole flowers from the grave of an 11-year-old boy suffered depression after her son took his own life, a court heard.

Berta Manzanero, 71, took four flower pots left for road crash victim Robert Stringer in an impulsive act after they caught her eye.

Manzanero, of Green Lane, Dagenham, was arrested after photographs of the theft were printed in the Post last week.

Robert’s family placed a hidden camera at Rippleside Cemetery following a spate of thefts from his grave over the past 18 months.

Manzanero admitted stealing the pots worth �15 on November 19 but denied taking other flowers from the cemetery in Ripple Road, Barking.

The mother-of-two had faced up to six months in jail.

But she was fined �300 and ordered pay �100 compensation to Robert’s family after magistrates heard her son jumped in front of a train in 2004.

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The death of the City worker and that of her mum and husband had led Manzanero to take anti-depressants, her solicitor said.

After the hearing Robert’s cousin Steve Rose told the Post he hoped the verdict would put an end to thefts.

Mr Rose, 37, said: “As far as we are concerned we can go back to what we’ve done before, tending the grave.

“I just hope it’s all over. I’m just pleased.”

The widow’s solicitor, Kaushik Ramdhary, told Redbridge Magistrates’ Court on Friday: “Mrs Manzanero expresses guilt for what she has done. She was not aware of the circumstances in terms of the grave.

“She is very fond of flowers. On that particular day, these opened her eyes.

“She turned back, she was very impressed with these flowers and picked them up.

“Mrs Manzanero denies ever taking other flowers from that particular grave before.

“She has stopped taking anti-depressants. She knows what she has done is wrong. She knows the family of that boy would have been very upset.”

Manzanero was arrested after her daughter contacted police, the court heard. She recognised her in the shots taken by the motion sensor camera on November 19.

Her solicitor said she had been at the cemetery to tend the graves of her relatives hence the flowers in her bag that were visible in the photographs.

He said she had taken the pots home but intended to return them.

Magistrate Glen Pierre told Manzanero: “It was an impulsive act, however, this caused great distress to the relatives and the theft was from a child’s grave. We have taken account of your early guilty plea and your previous good character and the obvious remorse you showed in court today.

“We have listened to your defence and are aware of your depression.”