DEVASTATED Hayley Smith has hit out at thieves who have pinched a memorial bench to the woman she considered 'a sister'.

Hayley met Sharron McQuarrie in 1998 while they both served in the Royal Navy together on HMS Ocean.

But Sharron died in a house fire on her 32nd birthday in 2012.

Haley and Sharron’s twin sister worked together to get a bench put in her name outside St Andrew’s Church in Tadpole Lane.

“We chose this spot because we'd always go there, usually we would go for a picnic, and stop there when the weather was nice,” Hayley said.

“I go over there and put flowers down around her birthday and Christmas.

"And I went up there last December and the bench was missing.”

That time it was found not too far from the grounds but Hayley went to visit again recently it was gone.

She said: “It’s really upsetting. Some people see it as just a bench but for me it’s much more than that.

“We did everything together, we served together, went on holidays and camping, she was like my sister rather than my best friend.

“It’s where she is for me, it’s where I can go to be with her, it means everything to me.”

The pals lived together for seven years because Sharon’s family were in Glasgow and it was easier for her to get back to the base in Plymouth from Swindon.

Hayley served as a supply accountant petty officer, Sharron was a steward.

“She loved her job and doing things for the officers.

"We basically just followed each other around while we both served until she left in 2010,” Hayley, of Covingham, said.

“Sharron was a happy-go-lucky person who went with the flow of things.

"But she had such a big heart she would do anything for anyone.”

At the start of 2012, the Royal British Legion helped Sharron to find her own place at Thorley Court in Abbey Meads.

The cause of the fire that took her life several months was not determined.

Hayley said the bench was the only thing that she has of her best friend.

She told the Adver: “I have close family and friends but we were each other’s shadow, we would do everything together.

“I just want whoever took it to have some compassion and either tell us where it is so we can pick it up or put it back themselves.

“To some people it is just a bench but for me and her family it’s like a gravestone. It’s where I go to sit and talk to her.”