A FAMILY say they are devastated after finding out that the plaque they had placed in their son’s memory at Dunster Beach had been removed without warning.

Patrick Harmon, 46, who grew up in Triscombe, was killed in a three-vehicle crash in Canada last year.

His sister Maria Cassidy contacted the Dunster Beach Company in December 2013 and was given permission to plant a tree with a plaque in Patrick’s memory.

The family had picked the beach as during Patrick’s last visit to England in December 2012, he had visited there.

The tree and plaque were planted in April but on Saturday Maria was left horrified after visiting the site to find the plaque had been ripped out of the ground.

Ruth Harmon, Patrick’s mother, said: “I can’t even express how upset and traumatised we are by this.

"At first, Maria thought the site had been vandalised and went along to the site office to report what had happened.

“She received an email which said the Dunster Beach Committee had had a meeting and removed the plaque as it is against their policy.

“If they had contacted us before, then it would have been fair enough but neither the administration staff nor our family was contacted to say that the plaque was going to be removed.

“It’s just devastating.”

In June, Patrick’s wife Margaret and his two children Baily and Adam are due to visit the site and scatter half of his ashes.

Ruth added: “I haven’t told them yet what has happened, and I don’t know how I will, it will be awful for them.

“We’ve been told that we can keep the tree there but it means nothing.

“My son was such a special person who did so much for his community in St Thomas, Ontario and we feel his memory has been defiled by this.

Angela Parkin, site manager at Dunster Beach said: “I am quite upset about this situation as well as I had been in discussion with the family about what they wanted to do.

“It was agreed that they could plant a tree or shrub with a small discreet plaque because this is somewhere where people come for a happy time and we already have a lot of benches with plaques on so we didn’t want it looking like a memorial site.

“Perhaps in hindsight I should have specified to the family a good size for the plaque.

“The board of directors had a meeting and unfortunately they had received complaints about the plaque and made the decision to remove it.

“I was going to contact the family and let them know what was happening and apologise on behalf of myself and the board of directors, and Maria visited the same morning that the plaque was removed which is why I hadn’t been able to contact them sooner.

“The decision was taken out of my hands and it really is very sad.”

The committee were unavailable for comment however an email was sent on behalf of the board to Maria apologising that the decision had not been relayed to the family immediately.