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Graves targeted by sick thugs

PUBLISHED: 19:08 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:06 03 July 2010

DESTRUCTION: Vandals have been targeting memorials in cemeteries

DESTRUCTION: Vandals have been targeting memorials in cemeteries

Laura Bagshaw

CEMETERIES are being targeted by vandals, leaving a trail of destruction with smashed and overturned headstones, crosses and ornaments.

Graves have been targeted in the cemeteries on Kitchener Road and St Nicholas Churchyard in Great Yarmouth.

CEMETERIES are being targeted by vandals, leaving a trail of destruction with smashed and overturned headstones, crosses and ornaments.

Graves have been targeted in the cemeteries on Kitchener Road and St Nicholas Churchyard in Great Yarmouth.

Stone crosses have been the main targets with the vandals pushing them off graves or smashing them into pieces and using these broken pieces to smashing other graves. Ornaments and pots appear to have been kicked off resting places and one grave in the Kitchener Road cemetery has even had its lid pushed open.

Brenda Hammond was “devastated” when she discovered the cross on her great grandparents grave had been smashed.

Mrs Hammond, 70, has three generations of her family buried at St Nicholas Churchyard and was putting flowers on her parents' grave when she discovered the damage.

“I am absolutely devastated, how anybody can do something like this is beyond me. The churchyard is kept beautifully, to go and see all this destruction is heartbreaking.

“The graves must have been attacked with a sledgehammer I cannot imagine what the state of mind this person must be,” she added.

Borough council officials reckon about £100,000 worth of damage has been caused so far to more than 50 memorials - some over 100 years old.

The recent damage spree follows the arson attack on the 133-year-old former chapel in Kitchener Road cemetery which was gutted by a fierce fire.

Yobs held a “mini rave” in the cemetery last Bank Holiday weekend and homeless people have been caught camping in the cemeteries and, according to council staff, are “constantly” being moved on.

Gates to the Kitchener Road cemeteries are already closed at 7pm in the summer time and reopen at 7.30am. However, from May 30 the council is now going to close gates leading to St Nicholas Churchyard from Sainsbury's, Factory Road and Town Wall Road at 7pm instead of leaving them open all night.

Mick Castle, leader of Yarmouth Borough Council's Labour group, criticised the council for not consulting residents in the area first.

He said: “Locking the gates will not make a difference because people will just climb over the walls.”

Mr Castle added he was disappointed to think the actions of a “minority” were going to impact on a lot of people who use the pathway through St Nicholas Churchyard as a shortcut.

Police have stepped up patrols in the area and are urging members of the public to contact them if they witness any anti-social behaviour in the cemeteries.

Sgt Iain McNaugher of North Yarmouth Safer Neighbourhood Team said: “The individuals that cause this kind of damage have no respect for the memorials and are unconcerned by the distress they cause to the families of the bereaved. We need to deal with this vandalism and anti-social behaviour as a priority and would ask the public to help identify those responsible for this damage and to remain vigilant.”

The council's bereavements services manager Linda Bigg said the cemetery had suffered the odd incident over the years but “nothing on this scale.”

She said: “The teams that keep our cemeteries clean also have to work longer to deal with the debris and rubbish that is being left by the vandals.

“We are determined to stop this from happening and the council's legal department is prepared to take prosecutions to court.”

Anyone with information about the damage, or who witnessed any of the attacks, should contact North Yarmouth SNT on 0845 456 4567 or email sntnorthyarmouth@norfolk.pnn.police.uk.


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