i

Stolen grave statue sculpted in honour of young girl killed in 1949

This statue shows Mary Christine Brito, 5, as she would have looked on the day she was run over and killed.
This statue shows Mary Christine Brito, 5, as she would have looked on the day she was run over and killed.
Image: Supplied

Family members of a little girl tragically killed by a truck in the 1940s are desperate to find a statue stolen from her grave last week.

The statue, sculpted in honour of five-year-old Mary Christine Brito, was stolen from the North End cemetery last week.

The white statue was sculpted in Mary Christine’s likeness after she was killed in a tragic accident while crossing Western Road leaving the Holy Rosary Convent School.

The little girl’s father, Manuel Brito, well-known managing director of Brito’s Bakery, had the unique statue made in honour of his daughter to depict her dressed in her school uniform and stepping off a pavement with one arm raised as though wanting to stop the traffic.

The little girl was run over by a 10-ton truck on her way home on February 11 1949.

Her older sister, Sylvia Kritzinger, 78, of Weybridge Park, said because the statue was uniquely designed and a memento in honour of Mary Christine they need to find it.

“It was part of the family and my dad had it made after she passed away. It was always a precious part of the grave site.

“It is disheartening to now see the grave site without it because it was made in her image, it felt like a part of the family.

“We would really like the statue back, but I don’t see that we will get it back,” she said.

Her husband, Louis Kritzinger, 78, said he couldn’t believe that the statue had monetary value.

“I do think it must have been a planned operation, probably to be resold, but when we inquired about the statue being missing, the caretaker could not help us.”

Louis said that earlier this month they had taken a family friend to visit the grave where his father-in-law was also laid to rest and noticed the sculpture was missing.

“We are obviously anxious to recover this unique statue and would be happy to reward anyone who can lead us [and the police] to finding it.
“This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill tombstone, it is very special to our family and we are hopeful that we can recover it,” Louis said.

He said it had been shocking to find the grave site without the statue.

“The cemetery is not that busy, it is relatively quiet and for the statue to just be gone now is terrible. There was another angel statue found [dumped] close to Mary’s grave, but now only the plinth remains.

“It is such an eyesore now, especially since we had the site refurbished a few years ago.”

Sylvia Kritzinger with pictures of her little sister as well the grave statue which has disappeared.
Sylvia Kritzinger with pictures of her little sister as well the grave statue which has disappeared.
Image: Werner Hills

The couple estimated the statue had cost about R15 000 when it was made 69 years ago.

“We are not sure what the statue was made of and we never bothered to ask my father all those years ago, but I can’t imagine that it is worth a lot of money still.

“And it was heavy to just be picked up and carried away,” Sylvia said.

She said a second statue had been erected in honour of Mary Christine and placed at the Holy Rosary Convent School, but the statue was no longer there as parts of the school had burnt down.

All memorabilia was assumed to have been moved.

Speaking of the day Mary Christine died, Sylvia – who was 10 at the time – said: “It was probably the first or second day of school and she must have been excited to get home because we lived in Russell Road and our stepmother often told her not to cross the road alone.

“Earlier that day we were lining up and there was a row of trees on the one side of the building. I kept hearing a little voice calling my name and on the third time I saw Mary waving at me from behind the trees and then she died.

“It is still such an emotional thing for me.”

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said a case of theft was being investigated.

X