Heartbroken Vera and Charles Hudson, of Garden House Close, Monk Bretton, first paid for several stick-on photos of their son, Dayle, to be placed on their black Ford Tourneo Connect vehicle about ten months ago.
They blew up some of their favourite photos of Dayle - who died from drug-related misadventure at the age of 29 in 2003 - and used the vehicle as a moving tribute to him so he was there with them on their travels.
People had been making unkind gestures and even spitting on their late son’s image, but then last month in a shocking act of vandalism the vehicle ended up being written off by their insurance company due to the damage caused by paint stripper daubed on ‘every panel’.
“These pictures made us very happy and we received nothing but delightful comments about them from strangers wherever we went,” Vera, 65, told the Chronicle.
“Then we woke one morning to find the van covered in paint stripper, which resulted in our insurance company writing it off. I can’t describe just how upsetting this was - I burst into tears as our tribute had been destroyed for no reason.
“It was devastating to see our boy’s smiling face in among the damage. You never get over losing a child and this was just our own personal way of helping ourselves.
“The photos we used of Dayle were completely inoffensive and were something we always used to joke about with him. His hair was longer on the photos and he always used to say he didn’t want anyone to see them as he was embarrassed, but it’s been on our mantle piece for years and it shows him as a happy child so that means a lot to us.
“Whoever was responsible went out of their way to do it - it must have happened overnight but they went to town on it and targeted every panel.”
Determined to remember their son, the couple used their insurance payout to purchase another small van - a white Mercedes Citan - and used the same photos.
However, Vera told the Chronicle the tribute has continued to draw attention from people who have gone as far as ‘spitting’ on the images.
Vera and Charles reported the initial damage to the police, but no arrests have been made.
“We were determined to not give in but people, if it doesn’t fit in with what they think is right, can be nasty and we’re stuck as we just want to be left alone,” Vera added.
“We’re a quiet couple and can’t believe we have had to deal with such mindless vandalism on what has always been a simple, innocent tribute to our son.”