Police say they are taking “appropriate” action over the appearance of a plaque at a South Tyneside beauty spot which has left the families of two murder victims “sickened.”
The sign – complete with a small statue of a black and white cat – was hung on the railings at The Leas, South Shields last weekend.
It said: “In memory of Kevin Nightingale murdered by Noddy Rice”
It went on to name a man who is alleged to have supplied the gun.
The sign was reported to the police on Sunday but by Monday it had disappeared and it’s whereabouts remained a mystery.
Calls to the National Trust by the family of Noddy Rice drew a blank and it was feared the sign had been lost.
However, Mr Rice’s family say they were contacted by officers on Thursday night to say someone had handed the plaque into police.
The sign was described as a “sick and evil prank” by both Mr Nightingale’s widow Julie and Mr Rice’s sister Shirley.
Kevin, 33, was killed when he was gunned down on the doorstep of his home in Drake Close, South Shields in 1996.
Despite repeated appeals his killer has never been caught.
David ‘Noddy’ Rice, 42, who was on remand in prison at the time of the Nightingale, murder, was shot repeatedly as he sat in his car at Marsden Lea car park in 2006.
His killer was named by police as Allan Foster, who is still on the run.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “Northumbria Police is aware of an incident involving a plaque being placed on private property, which has since been removed and is in police possession.
“Inquiries are ongoing into this matter and the appropriate action is being taken.
“If anyone has any information about this plaque they are asked to contact police.”
People are asked to contact police on 101, quoting reference 543 200817.