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A dying woman has had her diamond ring stolen from her finger at a hospice in Canterbury.
A thief took the gold band - a gift to Wendy Dolton from her late husband - while she lay in Pilgrim's Hospice in London Road.
The "vile and despicable'' theft took place between 6pm on February 13 and 6pm the following day, when Mrs Dolton died aged 65 following a battle with cancer.
Relatives are outraged because of her helpless state and because the ring had been a 40th wedding anniversary present from her late husband nine years ago.
Her son Sean, 46, said today: "It's a violation of morality that is just unbelievable. I'm speechless. Whoever did this is absolute scum.
"I saw her at about 6pm on the Wednesday and she had it on and she died at around 5pm on the Thursday. I feel sick to know that someone could do that in the last hours of her life.
"It's not just any ring. It was a 40th anniversary present from my father in the last months of his life, so the value is hugely sentimental.
"The fact that someone could do that to someone when they are at their most vulnerable is unbelievable. She would have been lying there and unable to do anything.''
Pc Chris Poulter, of Kent Police, who is investigating the theft, said: "The theft of the ring has caused a great deal of upset for Wendy's family at a time when they are already trying to cope with her sad passing.
"Pilgrim's Hospice has been fully co-operative and our investigation continues. We have already visited some second-hand shops and will continue to make inquiries.''
Officials at Pilgrims Hospices, a charity which provides specialist palliative care at sites in Canterbury, Ashford and Thanet, said they were "saddened'' by the incident.
Its chief executive, Steve Auty, said: "We are all shocked and saddened by this whole episode. Pilgrims Hospices is co-operating fully with the police and I am leading our own internal investigation.
"We are not aware of an incident like this occurring in our three hospices at any time in our 30-plus years history. Clearly it is not a situation that we want to occur in our hospices and especially not at such a difficult time for the family members concerned.
"Mrs Dolton's family are understandably deeply upset by what has occurred. I have spoken at length with Mrs Dolton's son Sean and assured him we are doing whatever we can to find out what happened. We have no evidence to suggest any members of staff are implicated."
Anyone with information about the theft of the ring, described as a gold band with a large square diamond, is asked to call Kent Police on 101.