Plymouth graveyard damage thought to be vandalism actually caused by crows
Damage to the graves of babies and young children thought to have been caused by vandals is now being blamed on crows.
Touching displays and flower arrangements were found destroyed and strewn across paths at Ford Park Cemetery in Plymouth.
The garden containing the graves of young children was the only area of the cemetery affected, with shiny ornaments thought to be the reason for attracting the birds.
Officials say they have had to deal with rooks - a member of the crow family - swooping down and pulling items apart to build their nests.
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Staff at the cemetery say they are doing all they can to keep the graves well maintained, and they appreciate how important the area is for parents.
After assessing the damage, staff say it is consistent with mess created by the birds in the past rather than that of potential vandals.
They said: "We go to great lengths to ensure that the cemetery and graves are maintained to a respectful standard.
"We are aware of the potential emotional impact on people, especially parents.
"We have recently had issues with rooks attacking the babies garden, they seem to be attracted to shiny objects and are pulling toys apart for nestling material.
"It is currently the nesting season and the days are long. They are powerful birds.
"In looking at the photographs, it looks like this may be the problem rather than vandals."
The grounds are currently closed over the weekend, with one local resident speculating that could lead to an increase in vandalism because of a lack of witnesses.
However, satisfied that the wreckage was caused by crows, Ford Park says the cemetery grounds will remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays until further notice.
A local dog-walker said it is not uncommon for birds to pick at things on the graves and fly away with them.
When she spotted the damage as she was walking past she made an effort to tidy up the mess left behind.
Management of the Trust that oversees Ford Park Cemetery have issued an update after a site inspection and clean up yesterday [Monday 4 May], echoing the thoughts of the staff and placing blame on the rooks.
The families of children buried at the cemetery say they are relieved that the destruction wasn't a heartless act of vandalism, stating how important the site is to them.
One mother whose twin daughters are buried at Ford Park has described it as 'a lovely place' to go and remember her children.