North Saanich’s Renate Herberger, whom many know as the ‘Deep Cove Mermaid’ says the theft of a house-marker that her late son had gifted her was not random.
“It seems to me a personalized theft, not a random theft,” said Herberger. “The people who walk the trail [near her house] all know me personally and you can’t carry that under your arm. It looks stupid because, ‘What are you doing with Renate’s mermaid?’ And some stranger wanting to go on a hike to steal it makes no sense either, and the kids in this neighbourhood, they don’t steal this kind of thing.”
Herberger describes the situation as “very odd” in noting that the sign has never come off since it first appeared. In the past, she has also been away for several months a year, only to have found the sign safe and sound in its place, untouched.
Herberger said the flat metal sign in the shape of mermaid — about three feet long and 12 inches high — served as a house marker, hanging from fishing line attached to a tree at the start of the driveway leading to her house, just past her mailbox. “Everybody who walks or drives past can see it because it’s big,” she said.
By way of background, Herberger has earned her nickname for her long-distance open oceans swims around the world to raise awareness for marine conservation and to honour the memory of her late son, Silvan Skye Valeska Herberger, who died Jan. 10, 2012 of suicide at the age of 23, shortly after her first swim through the Saanich Inlet. By her account, Herberger has swam 8,448 kilometres in spots around the world.
Herberger said she first noticed the sign missing on July 24 before reporting it to Sidney/North Saanich RCMP July 27. She added that the date of the theft coincided “pretty much” with the 22th anniversary of its purchase for $23 by her 10-year-old son in 1998 when he was in Coombs, B.C. on his way home from a camping trip to Horne Lake Caves. “My son discovered it actually in a tiny little store,” she said.
As such, it holds “huge nostalgic value” for Herberger. “He actually bought it for me from his pocket money,” she said. “So it’s not the monetary value. It’s the emotional value and that it stands for who I am. I never thought that anybody would steal it, because here nobody steals anything.”
This theft is not the first time Herberger has found herself having to deal with the emotional aftermath of losing something that reminds her of her late son
In 2015, an urn containing a portion of Silvan’s cremated remains went missing from a park bench. “It’s still missing, and again, I suspect that it was a person who was trying to hurt me. People do these kinds of things. These are not random vandalism.”
Herberger said her neighbours have shown great kindness in helping to recover the sign by plastering the neighbourhood with signs. “Who knows [where it might turn up],” she said. “My hope is to get it back.”
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