THE family of a young Saltcoats man who went missing at sea last year have been left devastated after a memorial bench in the town was vandalised.

Craig Townsley, 22, disappeared from a ferry heading from Shetland to Aberdeen last September.

His body has not been recovered and his distraught family put up a bench in his memory on South Beach, opposite the Lauriston Hotel in December.

Since then it has been vandalised twice.

On both occasion, the plaque put up in Craig’s memory by his family was ripped off, damaging the bench itself.

His mum Jacqueline said: “It’s the only thing we have.

"We don’t have a grave. We don’t have anything else.

"It is somewhere family and friends can visit and remember him.

“It is just devastating.” Craig had recently moved to Shetland from Saltcoats with his mother and her partner, Mel Burrows.

He was working as a cleaner on the Sullom Voe oil terminal.

He was on board the Hjaltland for a 14-hour overnight journey back to the mainland with the couple.

Jacqueline said: “We had a cabin together because the ferry journey was overnight.

After having something to eat, we went back to the cabin and we were just talking most of the night.

“Then, a bit before 3.30am he said he was going out for some fresh air and that was it.

"That was the last I saw of him.” Craig was last seen sitting on a bench by security staff at around 3.30am.

After noticing his bed was empty at 5.50am, his mum went looking for him and raised the alarm at 6.30am when she could not find him.

A large-scale air, land and sea search was launched, to no avail.

Jacqueline, 50, said: “I never thought for a moment they weren’t going to find him on the day he went missing.

"But there’s still no news.” The vandalism of the bench in Saltcoats has caused even more heartbreak for the family, including Craig’s sister Claire Kerr, 28, of Ardrossan, and brother Alan Townsley, 25, Mum Jacqueline said: “The bench has been there since December 20 last year and the family’s plaque has been taken twice.” Both the police and North Ayrshire Council have been informed about the vandalism and Craig’s family hope publicity will deter the heartless culprit from doing it again.

Jacqueline has her suspicions as to who is responsible for the vandalism but, so far, has no proof.

She urged people who live near the memorial bench to keep an eye out.

She added: “It does appear to be happening at weekends.

"The plaque was there on Friday, but by Sunday or Monday, it was gone again.” There are actually two plaques on the bench.

The second was put up in Craig’s memory by his workmates. That plaque has not been touched.

Jacqueline said: “Maybe the person responsible will see this in your newspaper and realise what they are doing.”