The family of a deceased Korean War veteran is pleading for a thief to do the right thing and return the box of ashes that was stolen in a recent break-in in Burnaby, B.C.

"I understand that you didn't probably know what you were taking at the time, and certainly we would be very grateful if they were returned," said son Scott Peters.

The ashes of Walter Peters, who died in 2012, were kept in a seven-by-four-inch red box in his widow's bedroom until last Tuesday.

'He was a good dad…. To have [his ashes] thrown into the ditch of into the garbage would really bother me.' - Scott Peters
Walter Peters missing ashes

Someone broke into this Burnaby, B.C., home through the window off the porch and made off with coins, jewelry, and a box of ashes. (Kirk Williams/CBC)

That's when a thief broke through a window, climbed in and made off with a number of valuables including some coins, and emerald and ruby rings — and the precious red box.

Scott Peters says the loss of his father's ashes has devastated his mother.

"It's very stressful for her and certainly, I think, emotional for all of us," he said.

Peters suspects the crime was a quick grab of things that looked as though they were valuable and could be sold quickly, possibly to support a drug habit.

Scott Peters, son of Korean War veteran Walter Peters

Scott Peters says the ashes were in a red box, and it is likely the thief or thieves didn't know what it was or what it contained. (CBC)

Peters works with addicts in the Vancouver detox centre, and said he understands that the need for a fix drives some people to steal and cause harm.

He also said he understands that everyone has the ability to do the right thing.

"I see thoughtfulness, even when people are at their lowest, they can still have compassion for other people. I see it all the time," he said.

Peters hopes the ashes will be returned, either through Crime Stoppers or simply by being dropped off somewhere safe — it's happened before.

Other ashes returned

On Christmas Eve in 2011, a thief in Delta, B.C., made off with a small puck-shaped silver container that held the remains of Carol Lalonde's husband.

About a month after she made a public plea for its return, the small urn was anonymously dropped at the back door of a local Salvation Army store.

​​Just last month, a cross-shaped pendant containing the ashes of a nine-year-old boy killed in a Manitoba plane crash in 2013 was stolen from a truck in Edmonton.

Again, a distraught family came forward. The next day, the pendant was dropped off at a police station.

Peters said he is hoping that someone will do the same for his family. He said the red box has no value to anyone but his family, and they would deeply appreciate having the ashes back.

"He was a good dad…. To have them just thrown in, you know, the ditch or put in the garbage wouldn't be appropriate for him," Peters said.

Burnaby RCMP says it is continuing to investigate.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams