Families’ heartache as vandals trash graves at Hebburn Cemetery

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Families have been left heartbroken after vandals trashed around 25 graves at a South Tyneside cemetery.

Widower Tommy Oughton was one those left angered and distraught after finding the graves of their loved ones had been descrated at Hebburn Cemetery over the weekend.

Tommy Oughton has been left heartbroken at the damage caused to his wife Mary's grave

Tommy Oughton has been left heartbroken at the damage caused to his wife Mary's grave

Ornaments had been stolen and headstones ripped from their plinths and toppled over.

It is the latest mindless act carried out by yobs who are plaguing the cemetery.

Only last week, rubbish, including beer cans, bottles, dog muck and teabags had been dumped on the resting places of those buried within the grounds.

Mr Oughton, 82, from Hebburn, buried Mary, his wife of 59 years, last May after she lost her battle with cancer aged 78.

It’s hard enough knowing I’ll never see my wife again, but having her final resting place destroyed the way it has been, it breaks my heart.

Tommy Oughton

Through tears, the great-grandfather said: “My wife died of cancer and it had such an impact on me. We were married for 59 years,

“It’s heartbreaking to see what they’ve done. It was bad enough last week when I came down and the place was littered with rubbish.

“They’d thrown beer cans, bottles, teabags, dog muck all over people’s graves.

“But now this. They’ve stolen things we’ve placed on graves, pulled headstones over - it’s disgusting.

Tommy with his late wife Mary Oughton

Tommy with his late wife Mary Oughton

“It’s hard enough knowing I’ll never see my wife again, but having her final resting place destroyed the way it has been, it breaks my heart.”

Former grave digger Billy Stevenson, whose wife Elaine is buried in the cemetery, said: “I have worked as a grave digger for 20 years and you see damage being done over the years, but I have never seen the place destroyed like this.

“It’s distressing for the families to see, it’s terrible.

“My wife Elaine is buried here, her grave and headstone hasn’t been touched but I’m here every morning and I see Tommy - it’s a disgrace.

Damage caused to graves at Hebburn Cemetery

Damage caused to graves at Hebburn Cemetery

The issue has once again been raised to local councillors and the vandalism has also been reported to the police.

It has also prompted renewed calls for CCTV to be placed within cemeteries.

Jayne McGivern’s great uncle Charles McGivern, 69, is buried at Hebburn Cemetery, His headstone was also one of those pushed over.

She said: “I think it’s disgusting. What do these people get out of doing what they’ve done?

“You see people coming here to remember their loved ones and they are being forced to see this - it’s appalling.”

Coun Richard Porthouse, who is chairman of Hebburn Community Area Fourm, said: “I was down there last week and I saw the rubbish that had been dumped on people’s graves, - it’s disgusting and now this.

Litter was thrown over the graves at Hebburn Cemetery, last week

Litter was thrown over the graves at Hebburn Cemetery, last week

“I have raised what has happened to the relevant people and I’ll be raising it again. It’s a damn disgrace what they’ve done as well as the upset and heartache they are causing.

“It beggars belief what must go through the minds of these people who do this.”

The Gazette contacted Northumbria Police for comment but no one was available.

Billy Stevenson with late wife Elaine

Billy Stevenson with late wife Elaine