THE family of a former Inverkeithing High School pupil are devastated after they discovered the grave of their son had been "desecrated" by Fife Council workers.

Christopher 'Cookie' Coutts, from Aberdour, died in 2013 at the age of 19 after a two-year battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with parents Debbie and David going on to set up a charity in his honour.

Now, as they prepare to celebrate what would have been his 30th birthday, they have been left reeling after discovering a cherry tree they had planted in place of a headstone at Aberdour Cemetery has been ripped from the ground, leaving a slew of damage in its wake. 

"It’s gut-churning," Debbie told the Press. "I feel like we have been violated and that Christopher’s memory has just been a second thought to whoever has done it. It’s like they don’t care."

Dunfermline Press: Christopher 'Cookie' Coutts passed away in 2013 after a two year battle with cancer. Christopher 'Cookie' Coutts passed away in 2013 after a two year battle with cancer. (Image: The Cookie Jar Foundation)

The Cookie Jar Foundation, which they set up after Christopher's death, has gone on to help hundreds of people, by raising funds and providing support to children and those in need of help, whether it be in hospital, educational or community based environment.

The tree, which had been there for 10 years, was a rootballed dwarf cherry tree that they had planted in memory of their son as a living headstone. 

David explained: "We didn’t want to have a gravestone for a 19-year-old lad that had had a short life, we wanted to do something that kept his memory alive and it's a memorial to him."

Along with the tree, the family also say that the decorative chips and edging they had placed there have also been taken away as well as the crystals, angels and trinkets that they had decorated the tree with. 

Lavender plants that Debbie had planted around the tree have also been ripped out by the roots and placed back on top of Christopher's grave. 

The damage was discovered on Tuesday night by his sister, Louise. 

David said: "I went up last night, my daughter discovered it, so I went up to have a look because the tree was missing.

Dunfermline Press: Before and after. The family discovered the damage at Christopher's grave, at Aberdour Cemetery, on Tuesday night.Before and after. The family discovered the damage at Christopher's grave, at Aberdour Cemetery, on Tuesday night. (Image: The Coutts family.)

"From what we can see they have backed a vehicle into his grave, on top of where he is resting on the grass, and I would suggest that they have attached some sort of implement onto it because they’ve dug down when they've gone to accelerate to pull out the tree.

"They’ve obviously got a fright because the tree has come flying out but they’ve spun their wheels up and damaged all the grass of his resting place.

"Everything that has been there for 10 years has been cleared away."

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While the family understand that work to maintain the cemetery needs to take place, they are hurt by the way in which this has been done, with no notice, and furious at the damage inflicted on the gravesite and the apparent disregard for Christopher and his memorial. 

Debbie said: "It’s really hard to put into words because there is a mix of anger, frustration and sadness at having this done to something you thought was sacred.

"They’ve just gone in and ruthlessly done what they’ve done with no thought or consideration.

"I think it’s the callous manner in which it’s been done.

"We decided to plant the tree because Christopher was only 19 when he passed and we didn’t want a big slab of concrete or slate or anything.

"He was a young person and we thought that this tree signified everything, who he was and what he stood for.

"It was great because we could go up at Christmas time and hang things from it and pay our respects and now I’ve got to go up next week and there’s going to be nothing there.

"I’ve got nothing there. It’s just a mess. It’s devastating for us as a family, especially at this time of the year when we’ve got so much going on and it’s such a difficult time for us."

Before planting the tree 10 years ago, the family sought guidance from Fife Council to ensure that the tree met the guidelines for what could be planted there. 

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David explained that the tree, which was only approximately 7ft in height, was root-balled to stop the roots from spreading and was no more intrusive than a rose bush. 

Despite this, the council confirmed that they had removed the tree in response to complaints that they had received. 

Bereavement service manager Liz Murphy apologised for the distress caused to the family.

She said: “We’re very sorry that this has happened and we’ll be looking into why there was no communication with the family before the tree was taken away.

"We were responding to other complaints about the tree but the fact it was removed in this way is unacceptable.

“We know how important it is for families to have a peaceful and well-maintained space in our cemeteries and on this occasion, we have let this family down.

“We are in touch with the family to discuss how we can help repair any damage caused."