A car has been seized and two people arrested after more than 80 memorial plaques were stolen from a central Auckland cemetery last weekend.
While police initially believed 75 memorial plaques had been stolen from the cemetery at St Andrews Church in Epsom, it's now understood that figure is more than 80.
"This incident was incredibly disrespectful towards the families of those buried and police have no tolerance for this sort of act whatsoever," said Inspector Grant Tetzlaff, Area Commander for Auckland City West.
"Police investigating this incident have completed a number of enquires and have recovered nearly all of the plaques that were stolen. Unfortunately, a majority of the plaques have been defaced or damaged and are not in a condition to be remounted at the gravesite."
On Thursday night police searched a property in Mt Roskill, seizing a vehicle of interest. A 34-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man were also arrested and charged over the incident.
They are scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court on Friday.
"I would like to acknowledge the work by our Tactical Crime Unit to quickly bring about a result in this matter," said Insp Tetzlaff.
"While some of the plaques have been damaged, we hope this brings some reassurance to the families impacted by this theft in that the alleged offenders have been held to account."
On Thursday, people's warden at St Andrew's Church, Lesley Anderson, told RNZ the alleged offenders had shown "no respect".
"I don't think it matters what faith you are. A cemetery is a spiritual sacred place, or tapu... I think people should respect that and I don't understand people who can go and wilfully damage a spiritual place," she said.
"I would like people to return the plaques... so that we can return them to their rightful place and their families. I just hope people would stop and think when they are doing to other people when they do discreet in sacred spaces."