A US couple have spoken of their grief after their 5-year-old son's gravestone was repossessed. The boy's mother, Crystal Leatherman, made the horrifying discovery when she paid a visit to her son's graveside earlier this month. Pictures taken from the burial plot show the grave left bare and without any markings.

Jake Leatherman was just 5-years-old when he lost his battle with Leukaemia and was buried in at a graveyard in Hickory, North Carolina, in autumn of last year.

The manufacturer, Reverend JC Shoaf, took the marker after the parents failed to pay the full amount for the gravestone which his company had provided.

The family had initially paid upfront for the marker but made final changes which added to the amount owed. According to Rev. Shoaf, the family are still in arrears by $918.

"This is my lowest point," mother Crystal Leatherman said. "He doesn't care."

Mr. Shaof said he was compelled to take action after his calls and messages went unanswered. Following months of failed attempts to recover the money, he decided to take the gravestone. "If you buy something, you've got to pay for it. No matter what it is," he said.

Speaking with NBC Charlotte, he said he now regrets the decision to repossess the item: "Hindsight says that was the wrong thing to have done."

Leatherman rejected claims that the family ignored calls from the company. "If I would have owed him the money I would have paid him. This is not something you argue over," she said.

Rev. Shoaf said he has received phone calls from angry locals and wants to put an end the matter by replacing the gravestone. The Leatherman family said they are now looking for another company to provide the new headstone for their deceased son.