The wanton vandalism of a commemorative angel adorning the memorial trail built in honour of their murdered daughter has outraged Armstrong’s Van Diest family.
Taylor Jade Van Diest was murdered in 2011 as she walked in an area near the railway tracks between Rosedale Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road on Halloween night. She was attacked and was found unconscious. Van Diest died Nov. 1 in Kelowna General Hospital.
Her family, with help from the City of Armstrong, Kelowna Pacific Railway and tons of volunteer donations and support, built the Taylor Jade Van Diest Memorial Trail in the same area, and opened the trail to the public this summer.
On Aug. 30, Van Diest’s mom, Marie, was walking the trail and discovered one of two large polyresin angels that adorned the trail was gone.
It was later revealed that day to Marie Van Diest that someone had taken the angel, thrown it over a fence and it was destroyed on impact.
“Whoever you are, you need to know that this callous, despicable act of vandalism has deeply hurt many people,” said Van Diest. “You also need to know that you have greatly disrespected my daughter’s memory.”
As the vandalism occurred at the same time as the Interior Provincial Exhibition, which drew an average of nearly 30,000 people daily during its five-day run, the family and Armstrong RCMP believe the culprit may not have known the trail’s history and significance.
“We’re thinking it is somebody not familiar with that area or what it was all about,” said Armstrong RCMP Sgt. Robb Daly. “Because of that time of year, we have a lot of people in town. We don’t have a suspect yet but the file is still being actively investigated.”
The family removed another commemorative angel and a commemorative lion from the trail, after the discovery of the vandalism, for the duration of the IPE.
The vandalism, said Daly, is traumatic for the family and the city.
“We’re a small community. A lot of people put a lot of effort into this memorial trail,” he said. “When people don’t know anything about it and they’re not thinking what they’re doing, they end up doing a lot of damage.
“Not just to the physical world of the memorial but to the actual hearts of the community that came together to remember Taylor.”
Anybody with any information the vandalism is asked to call the Armstrong detachment at 250-546-3028.