The son of an 89-year-old Melksham man has been left devastated after thieves stole his late father’s ashes.

The last remains of George Tye, an 89-year-old widower who died in 2011, were stolen when his house in Sarum Avenue, Melksham was broken into over the New Year period.

His son Charles Tye, who now lives in Minneapolis in the United States, discovered the theft when he visited his father’s home to clear his belongings yesterday. The ashes were left in two cardboard tubes in a hessian bag on the hearth next to the spot where his father liked to sit.

Burglars broke into the house after removing a rear window. Three bottles of whisky were also taken, which were intended as gifts for neighbour who had been looking after the house.

Mr Tye said: “I can’t believe anybody would do that. They are welcome to the whisky, but I just want to lay my father to rest.

“We were at the final stages of getting rid of the furniture, so there was nothing else there worth stealing. We looked in all the usual places, in rubbish bins and the compost bin, but there was no sign of it.”

The bag has two white handles at the top and a small red flower in the bottom corner. The cardboard tubes have metal stoppers.

Mr Tye had intended to scatter his father’s ashes in Paisley in Scotland where the remains of his mother were laid to rest, and at sea, to honour his navy career.

“I was horrified when I discovered that the bag had been taken. I was extremely close to my father and it would mean a tremendous amount to me to get them back.

“My reaction was that I shouldn’t have left the ashes where they were, but they were in my father’s favourite spot where he sat in his chair.

“I would be enormously grateful if anyone who has seen the bag or the cardboard tubes could keep them safe and contact Wiltshire Police as soon as possible.”

George Tye worked as a civil servant at the Ministry of Defence after serving in the Royal Navy in Hong Kong and Singapore. He moved to Melksham 35 years ago, and died last year of heart failure.

Detective Constable Nicky Caffrey, of the Priority Crime Team at Melksham, said: “It is possible that the burglars took the bag and the cardboard containers believing them to contain bottles of alcohol. Once they opened the containers they may have discarded them somewhere, not realising the significance of the contents.

“Anyone who has any information is asked to call the Priority Crime Team at Melksham on 101, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously.”