THE Mayor of Stratford-upon-Avon has promised a reward of up to £1,000 to help catch the “despicable yobs” who damaged 11 gravestones, including the iconic memorial to Marie Corelli, in a mindless act of vandalism at the town’s cemetery.
Vandals rampaged through the cemetery in Evesham Road at around 4am on Saturday, leaving a trail of devastation. Eleven memorials were hit, including irreparable damage to the 10ft angel on the gravestone of novelist Marie Corelli, who was buried there in 1924.
Two local monumental masons estimated repairs would total between £80,000 and £100,000.
The mayor, Cllr Keith Lloyd, pictured left, slammed the behaviour of the vandals and told the Herald yesterday (Wednesday), that he was offering the reward to encourage people to come forward and speak to police.
“I am shocked, saddened, and appalled at this disgusting act of vandalism of which has been committed in this our special town’s place of rest,” he said.
“These offenders who have desecrated these graves must be caught, be brought to justice and be punished accordingly.
“I am sure the people would agree with my view that these yobs should be named and shamed due to this horrific and immoral crime they have committed, of which has offended and hurt all residents of this town”
He told the Herald he would be offering a reward between £500 and £1,000.
“Cllr Chris Wall has already contributed £100 towards this and has promised personally to help me further in ways of funding my initiative,” he said. “Although our town’s family tombstones have been overturned—I will leave no stone unturned until we find these despicable people.”
Police believe the vandals may have been drinking through the night after a caretaker recovered a cardboard box and beer bottles from the cemetery chapel when he unlocked the cemetery gates at 8am on Saturday morning. The gates were locked at 8pm the previous night.
Stratford Town Council discussed the damage at a committee meeting on Tuesday night when they agreed the vandalism was “so repugnant, it makes you sick to your stomach,” according a statement released yesterday (Wednesday).
The council is responsible for ensuring that memorials in the cemetery are safe, but it does not own them, which remains the responsibility of the original owner or their family.
At a full town council meeting on 22nd January, the need for additional security at the cemetery will be discussed.
The mayor said: “We are too angry and upset to risk making a decision based purely on emotion.”
In the meantime, Marie Corelli’s monument will be moved to secure storage and the other stones will be made safe.
Police have stepped up their nighttime patrols around the cemetery, and will be making house-to-house inquiries.
Officers are appealing for witnesses. Contact Sgt Richard Thomas on 01789 44503 or e-mail Rich.firstname.lastname@example.org/police.uk
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