Silver City rallies behind the Harts
Monday, 24th February, 2020
By Annette Northey
The grave of iconic Australian artist Pro Hart has been vandalised in the Broken Hill cemetery by way of a chemical thrown onto the black granite slab, as was discovered Saturday morning.
News broke to the public on Saturday about 3.30pm when John Hart, Pro’s eldest child, posted the following message on his Facebook page, along with photographs of the damaged grave:
“So this was Dad’s Grave today. Vandals tossed some chemical that has etched the Granite. We got most of it off but the only fix to the marks left behind is to re-polish and re-etch the Dragonfly,” John said.
“This Memorial cost $60,000, now it’s damaged, probably $20,000 or so to have it repaired.
“Mum is in tears and I can only look on and wonder at what has become of our town.”
Hundreds of replies to John’s message have been posted in an outpouring of fervent support for the Hart family and in defence of Pro’s honour. Many of the messages were explicitly scathing of the vandals.
Pro’s daughter, Julie-Anne, and John said the attack possibly happened between about 9am and 10am Saturday morning.
“Apparently there was a lady out here visiting a grave and left the cemetery at 9am. She said that she didn’t think the grave was damaged then, although she wasn’t 100 per cent sure,” Julie-Anne said.
“But it was really covered, there was a fair bit on it.
“It’s pretty well soaked into the granite.”
“We don’t know what it was, but my Uncle Rod (Craker), who comes out each week to clean the grave, arrived at about 10am Saturday and found it.
“He happened to have a broom with him, and he swept some of the chemical off.
“And as he was washing it off, it turned milky,” Julie-Anne said.
Det. Insp. Michael Fuller from the Barrier District Police said they didn’t have any suspects at this stage, but they believe the crime may have happened anytime in the previous ten days.
“The Police Crime Squad was down here this morning to inspect the crime scene and they have taken samples of the substance and taken it away to have it tested,” Det. Insp. Fuller said at the cemetery yesterday afternoon.
“We will be looking at CCTV footage of the cemetery too, as part of the investigation process,” he said.
Julie-Anne said her mother was distraught about the vandalism attack on Pro’s grave, saying it followed a series of setbacks for her since the death of the internationally acclaimed artist.
“Mum is really upset. You know, since dad died (in 2006), poor mum, she’s had breast cancer, a knee replacement, hip replacements, a broken arm, broken leg, broken back, and then with her little pet dog of 16 years, Bella, dying last week, she was really emotional.”
Julie-Anne has read all the comments on social media.
“All the comments on Facebook and everywhere have all been positive and lovely,” she said.
“There have been no negative ones,” she said.
“Isn’t that nice, because Dad was lovely, he was a lovely person.”
But Julie wasn’t sure what would happen now, mainly because of the cost involved in having the grave repaired.
“It makes you a bit nervous fixing it up. How do you know it’s not going to happen again?
“I don’t know, we might look at doing something else, maybe like a big metal structure. Dad used to love metal, but I don’t know. I would hate to spend all that money again and have someone come and do this again,” Julie-Anne said.
Her brother John was thinking along those lines today.
“We might get something different, some sort of metal thing. That would be an appropriate thing to do.
“But we’re not quite sure yet,” he said.
Asked what he thought about who had done the damage, he said there have been a lot of theories floating around and the latest was that somebody might have been out there with a bucket cleaning another grave and they’ve walked past and just tipped the leftover liquid on Pro’s grave.
“I think that’s a dumb theory,” he said.
Mayor Darriea Turley said it was outrageous and she believed the foul act was not random.
“This is actually a targeted attack,” the mayor said yesterday.
“You don’t walk out here with a product and throw it over one grave. Someone has actually come in and done it.
“This hasn’t been done anywhere in our cemetery before. I think the community of Broken Hill are all outraged about this.
“It’s like a one-punch crime when someone’s been assaulted and they have no ability to respond.
“And for Raylee and her family, our community will be standing with them. It’s just outrageous.
“I just don’t know what psychology of the brain (would exist) for somebody to do that.
“For everybody else whoever talks about the Hart family, it’s with great pride. Great pride that Pro was our son. Great pride of the contribution beyond, not just physical, but the family itself.”
Mayor Turley was asked if she felt an article in the Barrier Daily Truth last week, in which a favourable comment was made about Pro Hart and the Hart family, could have triggered some animosity in someone.
“You know, things like an article can actually trigger someone. I’d be interested in what the police think,” she said.
“I hope the Hart family are talking to them (the police), because this is something that the community will never accept.
“Certainly, as Mayor, I stand with the Hart family representing the community and believe that the police should be as outraged as we are,” Mayor Turley said.
Det. Insp. Fuller said the police have looked around other graves in the immediate areas of the cemetery as part of their investigation.
“So far, there doesn’t appear to be any other graves affected at this time,” he said.
“It’s disappointing that this seems to be the first one,” he said.
“It’s very much a matter of a public plea for information.”
Speaking from Adelaide, Pro’s wife Raylee and daughter, Marie, have been rocked by the incident.
“I was absolutely devastated when John rang me,” Raylee said.
“I just can’t understand anybody going out there and doing something like that.”
Marie said that she was at work when it was all going on and came home to find her mother upset.
“I finished work and when I came home, I found mum sitting there just sobbing,” Marie said.
“I was gobsmacked when mum told me. All I could say was why, why, why?
“It’s a senseless act, I was furious.”
Raylee said: “As far as I’m concerned, the cemetery is a sacred place. Something sacred like that, it doesn’t matter who it was. Even if it wasn’t Pro; it would be just as bad if it happened to someone else.
“But it’s just so sad; Pro would have helped anybody. If they came up to the studio and asked him for twenty dollars he would have given it to them, no questions asked.”
Raylee described her sentiment in terms of a grief response.
“It’s just like Pro’s funeral all over again, it felt like having to go through what happened at the funeral.
“It feels like burying Pro all over again.
“But I’m really touched that Broken Hill feels for our family,” Raylee said.
Det. Insp. Fuller said the plea for public assistance was important.
“If someone knows of anyone that was involved, or if they were involved themselves and want to clear their conscience, it would be greatly appreciated if they could come forward,” he said.
“It is also possible that someone out here between about 10.30am on Thursday, February 13, and 10am on Saturday, February 22, that might have had a dash cam or something, could have seen or unwittingly recorded something that could help us narrow down the timeframe, the window that we’re working with at the moment,” he said.
“It’s also important to reassure the public, or anyone who has a loved one in the cemetery, that there does not appear to be any other graves affected.”
Anybody with information about the incident should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or get in touch with Broken Hill Police on 8087 0203.