Metal thieves steal memorial plaque to much-loved street cleaner

A street cleaner’s memorial plaque has been stolen from St John’s Wood for sale as scrap metal – despite being worth less than �2.

Thieves unscrewed the memorial paying tribute to Jorge Da Costa, who died of a heart attack, aged 44, in 2010, from a bench in Grove End Road.

The council paid for the plaque in November 2010, after residents called for a tribute to a man they say “brightened their days”.

St John’s Wood resident Sara Bretthauer said: “When I saw it had gone I thought that’s lower than low. I felt very sad that someone could have done that.

“Jorge was a special man with a contagious smile. He was always so happy to see people and he made us feel better after we saw him on the street.

“He united our community. He was loved very much in the neighbourhood and he brightened our days. We miss him.”

Speaking when the plaque was unveiled in 2010, Mr Da Costa’s son Martin said: “We are all extremely moved to think that his positive attitude and the way he greeted everyone with a smile has made so many happy.”

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Although the plaque has enormous emotional value to the community, it is likely to be almost worthless to the thief.

A scrap metal dealer with Greengate Metals valued the small brass plate at less than �2.

He said: “If someone turned up at my yard with a memorial plaque its more likely they would leave with a baseball bat wrapped around their head than any money.”

A replacement plaque will be provided by the council’s street cleaning contractor Veolia.

Cllr Ed Argar, Westminster Council’s cabinet member for city management, said: “These thefts are causing more expense for the taxpayer, not to mention the heartache for those that knew Jorge – we want to put a stop to it.”

“Everyone knows that metal theft is an increasing problem, and these thieves have no shame.”