MONTREAL – A grieving family is pleading for the return of cherished photos, a stack of hockey jerseys signed by NHL stars, and credit cards of a late, Stanley Cup-winning coach.
Pat Burns had barely been laid to rest when thieves smashed a window on his family’s SUV and stole personal belongings.
His widow discovered Tuesday morning that thieves had stolen the items, including autographed sweaters from each of the 30 NHL teams. They were supposed to be auctioned for charity.
The robbers also swiped some of the mourning family’s most important possessions, including photos, jewelry, articles of Burns’ clothing and credit cards—right out of the late coach’s wallet.
Even bedsheets from a palliative-care residence were taken.
The theft was committed in Old Montreal just hours after Monday’s funeral for Burns, who died Nov. 19 after a long battle with cancer.
The family urged the thieves to return the items—especially the jerseys.
“It’s a good thing to bring it back so we can do the job we wanted to do with the shirts,” the late coach’s son, Jason Burns, told The Canadian Press.
“There were a bunch of hockey jerseys that were going to foundations for needy people.”
Jason Burns taped a plastic sheet over the Volkswagen SUV’s broken window Tuesday, while police investigators snapped photos of the vehicle and dusted it for fingerprints.
“It’s a sad event. It’s not the greatest timing to do a thing like that,” he said at the outdoor parking lot.
“It’s (never) a great time to do this, but we think that the person should bring back the valuables.”
Chunks of tinted glass from the rear passenger-side window were sprinkled on the vehicle’s rear seat and a pile of tiny shards covered the floor mat.
Among the few visible items left inside the silver SUV on Tuesday was a crumpled McDonald’s take-out bag.
Police say the robbers know exactly whose belongings they stole.
“They went through his stuff,” said Const. Anie Lemieux of the Montreal police.
“The person who left with the shirts and everything knows that this is Pat Burns’ stuff.”
Burns’ cousin Robin, who delivered a eulogy at the funeral, was disgusted by the crime.
Robin Burns said the late coach’s widow had already had a tough day.
“Then to have personal effects taken out of your car (after the) funeral reception is absolutely deplorable,” Burns said.
“Whoever it is, they must have no conscience.”
He pleaded with the thieves, if they have “any type of conscience,” to leave the items with a TV or radio station or with anyone who knows Burns—and no questions will be asked.
“I’d only say to anyone listening, if you think you can sell them or do anything about them, then I think the police and the policemen’s brotherhood and friends of Pat might have different ideas.”
A former policeman, Burns was an award-winning coach for the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils. He guided the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2003.
At his funeral, people remembered the gruff ex-cop as a tough but fair man who cared about his players and knew how to motivate them.
Dozens of prominent NHLers, past and present, were among more than 1,000 people who filed into a Montreal cathedral for the service on Monday afternoon.
Many went to a wake afterward at a nearby Irish pub, where they swapped old memories.
The crime occured between midnight and 9 a.m.
Asked if he thought it was possible the thieves specifically targeted his dad’s SUV, Jason Burns replied: “I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
But he noted, matter-of-factly, that sometimes these types of things happen in a big city.
“The Montreal police has done good work . . . they’re working very hard to find the people who did it,” saidJason Burns, who wore a New Jersey Devils cap.
“We’re going to try and find (the valuables) as fast as possible.”
Others were far less stoic.
On Tuesday, as news of the crime spread rapidly online, a flood of Twitter users expressed their outrage.
“I hope the thugs that robbed Pat Burns’ widow go straight to hell. She’s gone through enough. What sorry excuses for human beings!!!” read one posting.
Another said: “To the person who robbed Pat Burns’ widow: I hope an angry mob forms, tracks you down, and beats you senseless. You are gutless.”
The stolen items include:
—Thirty jerseys signed by star players from each NHL team.
—Two suitcases containing Burns’ clothes, and those of his wife.
—A Movado men’s watch.
—Many family photos.
—Bedsheets from a hospice.