EXCLUSIVE: BY TOBY PORTER
Thieves broke into a school in the darkness and stole a statue erected in memory of a battling teenager who died of cancer 14 years ago.
The Buddha monument, weighing more than 47 stones, for teen-ager Dario Acunzo, was snatched from Lucas Vale School in St Nicholas Street, New Cross.
The culprits broke into the school on January 19 and took the statue – moving it on a trolley to Friendly Gardens.
There it was loaded into a vehicle which had been driven across the park, before they sped off.
Pupils, parents and staff of the school were left shocked and horrified by the theft but have now resolved to rally round and hold a talent show on February 11 to raise funds for a replacement.
Dario and his family were supported by the school and his fellow pupils before he died aged 14 in 2008 after a courageous battle with liver cancer.
Teaching assistant Barbara Porter, who was at the school when Dario was a pupil, said: “He was such a lovely boy – quite mischievous at times but unforgettable.
“He loved sport – we used to have an athletics competition with a cup donated by his family. They would come and present it every year. We will never forget him.”
The school had recently put up Dario’s picture in its hall and created a small peace garden dedicated to him in Lucas Street. It has stones, bamboo and gravel and a small sign dedicating the garden to his memory – as well as the statue.
Executive headteacher Mickey Kelly, of the Phoenix Federation which runs the school, said: “The culprits had obviously planned and prepared to do this. It was such a mean-spirited and hurtful action and can only have been motivated by greed.
“Dario is well remembered by the older staff for his sense of fun and character.
“The upper end of Lucas Street can be messy at times and rubbish is dumped there regularly. As well as remembering our ex-pupil, we had hoped to lift up this part of our street and make something beautiful and meaningful in an empty space.
“It is of course, just an object, an image, a representation of when Siddhartha wanted to break the cycle of suffering and death that affects us all.
“We will restore the statue and restore Dario’s Peace Garden. I believe that those who stole from the garden have made their own Karma – they will have no luck in this and no happiness will follow the money it brings.
“I know it is a small thing, but it was a memorial to a dead child and an ex-pupil. Those people should feel shame for what they have done.”
The federation hopes a talent competition will raise money for a replacement but also lift the area. “A lot of the children have asked to be involved,” added Mr Kelly.
“We are not a faith school we have so many different beliefs here: Buddhists, Muslims, Christians.
They all understood the meaning of the statue and they all feel affronted by what has happened.
“I would not expect the police to spend a huge amount of time running around after a statue. Neither do we need anyone to hold our hands. But the parents are disturbed and distressed that someone would do such a mean thing.”
Receptionist Monica Hylton, who also knows the family, said: “We are really pleased the statue will be replaced.
It warms my heart to know that Mr Kelly has spoken with Dario’s mum. They are a lovely family, and we will welcome them back with pride.”
The right hand of the statue was reaching down to touch the ground, marking the point where a meditating Siddhartha was on the point of understanding – until Mara, the great deceiver, sent his demon armies to threaten Siddhartha and his daughters.
Siddhartha reached down and touched the Earth, which rose up and bore witness that the man Siddhartha was no more – all anger, all desire, all longing – no more.
The gesture helps people to bring about the transformation from rage and anger to wisdom.