Beneath contempt... vandals wreck graves at Belfast City Cemetery
A family visiting Belfast City Cemetery on the anniversary of their loved one's death are among those forced to come to terms with the vandalism of 30 graves at the west Belfast plot.
SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said the grieving family had arrived at the graveyard on the Falls Road to pay their respects and were greeted by a scene of total devastation.
Mr Keenan said he was "shocked and disgusted" to see chipped headstones, smashed ornaments, torn family cards and candle wax poured over graves at the cemetery, where anti-social behaviour has been an issue for some time.
Police at Woodbourne station are appealing for information in connection with the criminal damage which is understood to have taken place sometime between Tuesday, July 23, and the morning of Wednesday, July 24.
He added the audit of the graveyard was still not complete, so the figure of damaged graves could rise.
"I spoke to one family this morning who told me that it was their loved one's anniversary and they had visited the grave only to learn that it had been damaged," he said.
"They went on to say that they were absolutely devastated because a little ornament they had placed on the grave, highly sentimental, had been smashed and was irreplaceable."
Park warden and police patrols will be increased and beat officers will also be paying attention to the graveyard.
Council parks committee chairman Gareth McKee said CCTV hasn't been ruled out.
The DUP man said colleagues had spoken to relatives who were "absolutely devastated".
He added: "Is nothing sacrosanct any more? People put a lot of money into graves and smaller personal items can never be replaced. The emotional impact on people is huge."
Meanwhile, the police are appealing for information following the theft of an angel ornament from a grave.
The white statue, with a faded gold inscription, was taken from Antrim Road graveyard some time between July 18 and July 22.
It is of great emotional significance to bereaved relatives.
Police are appealing to those who witness anyone in the cemetery at night or anyone committing anti-social behaviour to contact Woodbourne on 0845 600 8000.
A PSNI spokesman said: "Those who have recently attended Belfast City Cemetery and found damage to a loved one's grave are encouraged to contact local police.
"Local members of the community with a view of the cemetery from their homes are also asked to contact police if they notice anything untoward, so police can respond quickly."