The solemn mood of a wake was broken Saturday when a man, posing as a mourner, snatched someone's purse and ran.
The shocking scene played out at Caul's Funeral Home on Lemarchant Road in St. John's.
There was only one wake happening at Caul's when the incident occurred just before 4 p.m.
A relative of the deceased said it quickly became clear that the would-be mourner wasn't there to pay respects.
"You know how it is at a funeral," said the woman, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. "You don't know who's walking in, and who knows whom."
'"The indignity and irreverence of a person coming into a funeral, while the family ... with the loved one waking there ... we were all just left in shock. But it just didn't seem to worry this person."' - witness to theft
She said she first noticed the stranger when he walked into the room.
"He made a circle, walked out, then stopped to look through the visitors book. Then he was looking up to his left toward a closet in the room. I thought he had signed the book, but then he walked back into the room, went to the closet, reached up and grabbed a purse,” she said incredulously.
The woman said she lept off her seat and said, “Give me that purse!"
"He took to running, and what did I do, but I ran after him."
She said she chased the man through the main hallway of the funeral home, but tripped and fell to her knees, scraping her face, hands and knees.
Others, however, picked up the pursuit, chasing the thief down the grassy hill alongside the funeral home.
But they were unable to catch him.
The woman, meanwhile, said the thought of someone targeting a family while they’re mourning the loss of a loved one is incomprehensible.
"The indignity and irreverence of a person coming into a funeral, while the family ... with the loved one waking there ... we were all just left in shock. But it just didn't seem to worry this person."
Caught on tape
An image of the suspect was captured on security cameras, and has been circulating on social media. Police are also investigating.
Meanwhile, the woman who witnessed the theft says there’s still hope the purse can be found, even if the roughly $100 inside is gone.
"With your glasses, and the little special things, personal things, medical cards, banking cards ... It's just the nuisance of trying to reconstruct all of that, having to cancel cards."
The owner of the purse tried calling her cellphone, which was inside, but there's been no connection since Monday.
The suspect is described as about 5’7”, slim, and in his mid-20s.
"It was quite a shaking thing for all of us, and I'm still in disbelief over it, actually. Such a thing of desperation, and who knows why a person like that would do such things. Very bold," she said.
"I just hope someone like that is caught, for simply not to do it to someone else, and not have it happen to someone else."