Relatives’ anguish at graveyard rampage

Molly Hamilton breaks down after seeing the damage at East Calder Cemetery
Molly Hamilton breaks down after seeing the damage at East Calder Cemetery
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THREE eight-year-old boys have been charged over a vandalism spree at a Lothian cemetery which saw more than 50 gravestones toppled.

Relatives turned up at East Calder Cemetery in West Lothian to find the headstones knocked over and an estimated £20,000 worth of damage caused. West Lothian Council has described the attack which happened on Monday night as “absolutely shocking”. The boys will now be referred to the Children’s Reporter.

Toppled gravestones at East Calder Cemetery.

Toppled gravestones at East Calder Cemetery.

Many locals rushed down to the graveyard yesterday to check if graves belonging to relatives had been targeted.

Molly Hamilton, whose mother and father are laid to rest in the cemetery, was among those who visited but found that their headstone was still standing. Visibly distressed, she said: “Who would do something like this? I’m shaking, I thought my mum and dad’s might have been knocked over.

“The flowers are all in pieces but the stone is still there. But I’m thinking about the others who have had their relatives’ stones damaged.”

Another local resident, Elizabeth Morgan, arrived with her sister, Theresa O’Donnell. She said: “We came down straight away to check on our mother and father and our sister. Theirs haven’t been knocked over but it’s still very upsetting. You don’t expect something like this.”

Another woman, who asked not to be named, said she had been devastated to find her parents’ headstone had been toppled over.

She said: “I’m so angry about this. I want to know where the parents of these kids were when they were doing this.

“Everyone is absolutely disgusted. There is no place for something like this here.”

Police were called to the vandalism at around 7.30pm on Monday and have since charged the eight-year-olds in connection with the incident.

Councillor Frank Anderson, executive councillor for services for the community at West Lothian Council, said: “The extent of the vandalism is absolutely shocking. Council officers are inspecting the damage and making the gravestones safe. The team will then begin the process of contacting the relatives. Unfortunately, the responsibility for repairing or replacing the gravestones falls on the lair holder.”

A dedicated phone number for inquiries has been set up on 01506 773434 and it will be open between 10am to 5pm.

Monuments expert Alan McKinney, who has been closely involved in the Scottish Government’s trial project to use young offenders to repair head stones in Liberton Cemetery, urged those affected to band together to repair the damage. He said: “It does cost around £300-£400 to raise a headstone once it has been toppled, and it can be far more if the stones are larger. If those affected got together the costs could be much cheaper.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com