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Parents' fury over grave vandalism; Drunken yobs blamed for desecration.

Byline: Vicky Robson

HEARTBROKEN parents have issued a plea for help to catch the vandals who desecrated and damaged their babies' graves.

Drunken youths are being blamed for the latest incident of vandalism at West Lea Cemetery in Bedlington, Northumberland, where ornamental memorial trinkets were smashed and strewn on the ground.

The damage, believed to have taken place sometime over the weekend, was discovered by grief-stricken relatives of the little ones laid to rest at the cemetery in Netherton Lane.

Angry and upset, Kirsty Oswell, 16, and Adam Woodhouse, 18, are among the bereaved parents trying to come to terms with the damage done to their children's final resting place.

The couple visit the cemetery almost every day following the tragic loss of premature twin baby boys, Adam and Mitchell, on July 12 last year.

Kirsty, of Hartlands, Bedlington, spent hours on Sunday searching for a gift-wrapped teddy bear missing from her sons' graveside.

She said: "It's ridiculous. I didn't make it down on Saturday because I was at work. Then when I went down on Sunday, it was gone. It's just very upsetting."

Other parents were also outraged after little solar lights were removed and dumped on the ground and bins in the graveyard were burnt out.

They also discovered broken glass and beer bottles lying in between tombstones following the attack on the graveyards.

Melissa Swinney and partner Bradley Gaughan, both 27, of Milne Court, Bedlington, say they are devastated after a plaque at their son Elijah's graveside was broken.

Elijah died after only three hours of life, in September 2008, when he was born prematurely weighing just 2lb 14oz.

The couple say they are now frightened to take five-year-old son Callum and daughter Francesca, 10 months, to the cemetery because they do not know what they will find.

Melissa said: "We leave things for the babies to make it a nice place for them, because at the end of the day, they are still our children and we can't bring them home.

"But we are scared to leave anything on their graves now because it either gets damaged or stolen."

Police confirmed they had received reports of anti-social behaviour in the past few days and said officers have stepped up patrols in the area.

A 16-year-old boy was arrested on Monday night on suspicion of possessing a Class A drug and inquiries are ongoing.

Parents Kate and Chris Spraggon, of Gladstone Terrace, Bedlington, visit their baby daughter Eve's grave on a daily basis.

Eve died at just four weeks old, on February 4 this year after being diagnosed with Edwards Syndrome - a chromosome disorder.

Chris, 31, also dad to Ellie, four, and Grace, three, said: "It disappoints me no end to discover broken bottles, used condoms and dog faeces only metres from our daughter's grave.

"As a community we should do what we can to ensure our angels can rest in an area that is peaceful, clean and well looked after."

A public meeting will be held at 2.30pm on September 6, in the cemetery at the Dr Pitt Park pavilion to discuss the situation.

Bedlington Neighbourhood Insp Ross Davidson said: "We are aware that the cemetery has been used as a place for young people to congregate.

"We are monitoring the area very closely and are doing everything possible to find those responsible and to get the message across to young people that this is not a suitable place for them to congregate."

Anyone with any information about anti-social behaviour in the cemetery is asked to contact police on 0845 604 3043, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

CAPTION(S):

UPSET Families at the graves of their children, left to right, Melanie Hodge, Kate Spraggon, Kirsty Oswell, Melissa Swinney and Sara Appleby
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 26, 2010
Words:627
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