A woman was left in tears after a digger drove over a number of graves including her mother's, leaving deep track marks at the Torbay Crematorium in Torquay.Jacqui Friend claims that more than 20 graves were 'desecrated' including the final resting place of her mother Ellen Allen, who died aged 80 in 2011.The 63-year-old tends to the grave regularly and says it is in an area where families keep the plots well looked after.She says that when she tried to complain she felt she was not being taken seriously: "I understand that it's a working cemetery, and I know the weather had been very wet.
"But I feel that the digger could have avoided driving straight across 20-plus people's graves.
"The photos don't even do it justice. It's not just a case of waiting for the grass to grow back. It's going to take some work.
"I was absolutely horrified and I am sure a lot of other people are going to be just as upset as we are to find this normally well-tended area has been desecrated.
"Normally I go over there about once every fortnight and take flowers and clean my mother's grave - and the gravestone of a friend who's laid to rest nearby."What really upset me is that the digger didn't need to go that way. It looks as if they had been digging a new grave - but if they had put the pile of mud on the other side, they could have driven out the other end on to the path - instead of this vandalism."
The crematorium is managed on behalf of Torbay Council by Westerleigh Group.Kevin Davies, South West Regional Site Manager for Westerleigh Group, said: “When I became aware of this issue, I quickly made direct contact with the family and have arranged to meet them in person at the cemetery.“I extended to them my sincere apologies, on behalf of Westerleigh Group, for the understandable distress they have experienced as a result of this.“We aim to provide the highest standards of care at all our sites so that families who entrust us to care for their loved ones can take comfort in knowing they are being well looked after.
“On the very rare occasions when we may not meet the high standards we set ourselves, we take it extremely seriously because the very last thing we want is to upset any of the families we work with.
“The nature of a working cemetery means there are times when, in order to reach graves that need to be used for burials, we have to go through the cemetery section.“As a matter of urgency, our grounds team at Torbay is looking at what steps can be taken to restore this area to the condition families would expect.“In addition, to reduce the possibility of something similar happening in the future, we are investing in ground mats to provide an extra layer of protection to areas where the diggers need to travel.”