THE FAMILY of a woman murdered outside an Oxford police station have condemned "disgusting" thieves who stole flowers left at the site.

Yvonne Heap was stabbed with a kitchen knife by her ex-partner Nahed Akhter in the car park of Cowley Police Station in April 2003.

The 39-year-old died in hospital two days later. She had suffered 13 wounds, including a fatal blow that pierced her heart.

Mairead Carney, Ms Heap's sister, said the family lay flowers outside the station twice a year as an act of remembrance for the mother of three.

She said: "We put down flowers on the day of her death and her birthday, November 4, every year. Often they are stolen but usually we let it go if it's been a few days, though it is frustrating.

"But this time we put the flowers down on the Saturday and when we came back on the Sunday they were gone."

There were five full bouquets left on the Oxford Road railings but within 24 hours only a few flowers remained.

Mrs Carney, who lives in Sandford on Thames, added: "My mother, who is 80-years-old, was particularly upset by what happened and I think it was just the final straw for us."

Her brother John Heap said the station had confirmed they were not responsible for removing the flowers and he reported the theft to police on Friday.

The 58-year-old added: "We're hoping they'll have CCTV that they can use to find out who did this."

Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Hannah Jones confirmed police were investigating the theft and were eager to hear from anyone who may have witnessed the crime on 101 quoting reference 43170334659.

A joint statement from the family, which includes Ms Heap's four siblings, as well as 14 nephews and nieces, addressed the thief directly, saying: "The person who stole those flowers should understand that it is not just a disgusting act of theft but that they have robbed victims of a crime much worse.

"Whoever you are, you may not care who placed those flowers there and you may have had no thought for the sadness you have caused but we wish that our message at least gets to you."

They added the flowers were about more than just honouring Ms Heap but all victims of domestic violence, explaining: "The message here is that domestic violence is so bad and sometimes so ultimate that even a place such as a police station cannot offer our loved ones safety.

"Flowers are a symbol of our love and our hope that even if one person sees those flowers, it can change them."

They continued: "It helps us in some small way quietly and privately spreading the knowledge that domestic violence kills and that it needs to be eliminated from our society.

"The pain and suffering of the women who have died at the hands of a supposed ‘loved one’ should be remembered as a warning to others who may suffer the same fate."