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Families heartbroken after dozens of graves vandalised

Police are hunting for vandals who are reported to have desecrated dozens of graves at a cemetery. Photo: PA

Police are hunting for vandals who are reported to have badly damaged dozens of graves at a cemetery on South Tyneside.

Headstones were knocked over in at least two separate incidents at Hebburn Cemetery in South Tyneside, Northumbria Police said.

Officers launched an appeal for information tracking down the criminals whose callous actions have left relatives of those buried at the site distraught.

Around 25 graves were trashed, ornaments were stolen and the area was left strewn with litter and dog mess.

Local widower Tommy Oughton, 82, was moved to tears as described the moment he found the grave of his late wife, Mary, had been vandalised.

My wife died of cancer and it had such an impact on me. We were married for 59 years, It's heartbreaking to see what they've done.

They'd thrown beer cans, bottles, teabags, dog muck all over people's graves."

– Tommy Oughton
There have been at least two separate incidents of vandalism to headstones at Hebburn Cemetery Credit: PA

A Northumbria police spokesman said they were taking the incidents "very seriously".

There have been at least two separate incidents of vandalism to headstones at Hebburn Cemetery on Victoria Road West.

It is believed the headstones, which have been knocked over, were damaged between 2.30pm on Saturday and 8.30am (Sunday) morning.

We are aware that members of the public are concerned about the vandalism and police are taking these incidents very seriously.

Extra patrols are being carried out in the area and the local neighbourhood policing team are working closely with the local authority to put preventative measures in place.

Police enquiries to identify those responsible are ongoing and anyone with any information that may help the investigation should get in touch."

– Northumbria Police

Cllr Moira Smith, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety at South Tyneside Council said :

We are shocked and appalled by the mindless vandalism that has taken place at Hebburn cemetery and our thoughts are with the families and loved ones affected.

To damage a grave is extremely disrespectful, and very distressing for bereaved loved ones.

There will be increased patrols from both Northumbrian Police and our Community Wardens and are looking at additional security options at the cemetery.

We continue to work closely with Northumbria Police to stamp out all forms of anti-social behaviour in our cemeteries.

Families who may have been affected by this incident can receive support from Bereavement Services Officers.

If anyone has any information relating to this incident we would strongly encourage them to contact Northumbria Police.”

– Cllr Moira Smith