Graves vandalised: Anger and despair after louts desecrate graveyard by felling crosses and wrecking wreaths
Vandals who tore up graveyard crosses and threw them in a stream close to a Newry cemetery have been branded "animals" by bereaved families.
Families whose loved ones' graves were desecrated have called on Newry and Mourne District Council to install CCTV and other security measures after they were left devastated by vandalism attacks on the Monks Hill municipal cemetery in the past week.
A number of wooden crosses marking graves were torn from the ground and thrown in a nearby stream on Thursday night.
No sooner had the wreckage been cleared up, than around 45 wooden crosses were pulled up and thrown around the graveyard on Saturday night.
Flowers were also thrown around and lanterns on the graves smashed, according to Sinn Fein councillor Valerie Harte, whose mother's grave was one of those vandalised.
"The scene up there last night – people were just absolutely devastated that this could happen in a place where you lay people to rest," Ms Harte said.
"The police have been here and the forensics people were here as well, taking fingerprints.
"We have asked the council that CCTV cameras be installed, and it's an awful thing that you have to say that you have to put a camera in a graveyard to stop the mindless vandalism.
"We have asked them to put in some kind of security measures and the PSNI have said they will step up patrols in and around that area as well."
Ms Harte paid tribute to the council staff and cemetery caretaker, saying they had gone beyond what would have been expected to ease people's anxiety.
"When I was up on Friday the caretaker had already cleared it all up," she said.
Police said no one has been arrested for the attacks. It is thought that young people were responsible.
A number of wooden crosses had been pulled out of graves, but hadn't been damaged, a PSNI spokesperson said.
Jennifer McShane said a temporary wooden cross marking the grave of her father Gerard McShane had been torn from the ground at the weekend.
He died in July last year after becoming ill, she said.
"I nursed my dad through very ill health and it's very raw with us all still," she said.
"This morning I found that all the crosses had been pulled out of the ground and his was one of them."
People trying to rectify the damage were having trouble putting the right crosses back in place, she added.
"I just can't believe this, why anyone would even think it's OK to do something like that.
"They are animals," she said.
"To me, this is evil.
"You wouldn't dream of doing it no matter how drunk you were," she added.
"I just can't believe this, why anyone would even think it's OK to do something like that. They are animals. To me, this is evil. You wouldn't dream of doing it no matter how drunk you were."