Metal thieves ransack cemetery

Deputy News Editor 21 February 2008

150 bronze memorial plaques taken from Cambridge crematorium in shameful theft

Grieving Cambridgeshire residents have been left stunned after thieves stole almost all the memorial plaques from a local crematorium.

Officers investigating the incident suspect that the 150 bronze plaques taken last Friday night were stolen to be sold for scrap metal.

Among the people affected by the thefts is Barbara Gillett, whose son was buried in the Cambridgeshire crematorium after losing his fight with cancer. Her partner, Geoffrey Lawrence, 74, expressed his dismay at the vandalism: “It is sacrilege.

“We put flowers down and my partner wondered where Anthony’s name was.

“I had not noticed the bronze number plate was missing, but when I did I looked around and noticed all the other ones were missing as well.”

The bronze thefts leave an estimated bill of £10,000 to repair the damage, which the crematorium has offered to pay.

Tracy Spaxman, Crematorium and Cemeteries manager, said: “We would like to assure anyone who has been affected that their memorial plaque will be replaced.

“We take every reasonable step to ensure the security of the site, but we couldn’t have guarded against a crime such as this, especially during the night hours.

“I believe we should replace these free of charge and we will be looking at alternative ways of replacing the bronze with maybe another substance such as stone or even wood.”

She added: “Regrettably we are one of many places across the country that have been targeted in this way.

“As metal prices begin to rise so does this type of crime – nothing’s sacred.”

Police are investigating the thefts, condemning the actions as “appalling and very concerning”.

Detective Inspector Andy Gipp, head of a unit dedicated to preventing metal theft, said: “The theft from Cambridge Crematorium last weekend is an affront to the grieving relatives of those they commemorate.

“I also recognise the distress for the families and relatives and they have every right to feel outraged.

“Rarely in my service have I known criminals to stoop this low in order to steal what, in reality has relatively low financial value.

“Someone, somewhere, knows who has committed the theft and who has received the stolen property. I would appeal for that person to contact me. The people who committed this crime do not deserve protection, they need bringing to justice.”

Police are urging anyone with information about the crime to contact them on 0845 456 456 4.

Katie Spenceley

Deputy News Editor