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UPDATED: Wrecking spree at Poole cemetery: "We've never seen anything like it"
SICK vandals have smashed 25 graves in a wrecking spree at a Poole cemetery.
They struck at the Dorchester Road site on Friday night or early hours of the following morning.
Devastated family members were shocked to find the damage on Saturday.
Headstones were pushed and kicked over, some were broken and items such as floral displays and little wooden crosses for the recently deceased were thrown around and trampled on.
Among the desecrated graves was that of a six-month-old boy who died eight years ago.
His mum, who did not want to be identified, told the Echo: “It’s absolutely devastating. The people who did this have no idea what they have done to the families affected.”
She said: “We were called by friends and we walked straight up there. It was a terrible scene.
“An elderly man was already at his wife’s graveside, absolutely distraught at the damage.
“There was another lady who was in bits. She said she didn’t have the money to replace her husband’s headstone.
“The people who have done this must be made to realise what they have done.”
Jim Harris discovered the gravestone of his wife of 50 years, Sylvia, pushed over when he went to pay his respects on Saturday morning.
The 71-year-old, from the Waterloo Estate in Poole, found the toppled stone had smashed flower pots and ornamental meerkats placed on the grave by the family.
“It is utterly disgusting, these people don’t know the meaning of respect,” he said.
“But they will probably just get a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again, it would be a bit different if I got my hands on them.”
His son Robert, 40, added: “They deserve to be locked up and the key thrown away, you can’t get any lower than this.”
Council officials and local masons were at the cemetery over the weekend trying to put things back in order and police are investigating.
The group of stonemasons righting headstones and carrying out repairs at the cemetery on Sunday morning said they had never seen anything like it.
Matt Williams, of Williams Monumental Company, said it would have taken a group of vandals several hours to cause the amount of damage they found.
“This isn’t something a group of 15-year-olds could do, even the stones without ground anchors are extremely heavy,” he said.
“But whoever did it really worked on them and it must have taken some time, we have never seen anything like it.
“Of course, headstones aren’t cheap and they can’t really be repaired, so it is lucky that most of them haven’t been permanently damaged.”
Mr Williams said council officials will have to carry out ‘topple-tests’ on headstones around the cemetery to ensure they haven’t been loosened.
A second mason, John Knowles of Art Memorial, added: “We are lucky so many of these newer graves are fitted with ground anchors, so although the vandals have had a good go at it they haven’t been able to topple them completely over.”
A spokesman for Dorset police said the vandalism was reported on Saturday morning by a family member.
“They had been visiting their relative’s grave and saw it had been damaged and then realised a number of others had too.”
She added: “Several headstones had been pushed over and some seem to have been pushed with such a force that they have broken.”
Officers are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward by calling 101 or the Crimestoppers number 0800 555 111.
The spokesman added: “This is needless behaviour which has caused untold upset to the families affected. We will do all we can to catch those who did this.”
ANOTHER family shocked by the heartbreaking scene on Sunday morning were Jean Humphries and her son Gary, whose brother’s grave was dismantled and scattered.
Mrs Humphries’ 25-year-old son Wayne took his own life 11 years ago, and the family visit his grave twice a week to keep it clean and pay their respects.
Gary Humphries said: “The whole family were going to come up today, but thankfully dad couldn’t come because it is too cold for him, he wouldn’t have got over seeing this.
“At first we thought it was just my brother’s grave which was attacked, as it is the only one in this part of the cemetery.
“They obviously targeted the newer graves, the ones where people have died more recently.”
His mother added: “I couldn’t have been more shocked and hurt when I got out of the car if someone had thrown a dart at me. There are some evil people around.
“This would have finished off my husband, he is not very well and he found my son when he died.”
"It's so disrespectful"
Bus driver Mark Hill had just got back from Florida when he found his partner’s headstone knocked into the mud on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Hill, 49, was together with Raymond Lloyd for 14 years until his death from a long-term heart condition in September last year.
He had taken the holiday, on the advice of a friend, to try and move on after Mr Lloyd’s death and said discovering the grave felt like his partner had been beaten up.
“When I got out of the car and saw the mess I thought it was just his grave which had been targeted, I was so upset I didn’t even notice all the others pushed over,” he said.
“I’m proud of his memorial and feel very hurt by this, it’s like someone’s beaten him up. There were some police up here, and they were very good and gave me a lot of support, I was a mess.
“It’s lucky I put artificial flowers on the grave, because I was going to America and wouldn’t be able to replace them, and the headstone fell on to them and wasn’t damaged.”
Mr Hill, who lives in Parkstone, said shortly after finding the damage he spoke to a bereaved mother who had only been able to afford a plaque for her son’s grave, and had seen this vandalised in the spree.
“Whoever did this obviously haven’t lost anyone close to them, or there is something wrong with them, it’s just so disrespectful,”he said.