Banbury graveyard targeted by thieves

Over the past 12 months a families grief has been replaced with anger after repeated thefts from their loved ones grave.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 5:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 5:16 pm
Hardwick Hill Cemetery on the Southam Road has been targeted by thieves

The Biddle family from Bloxham laid to rest their beloved daughter, Amanda, in 2015, following a funeral attended by 1,000 people.

Since then the family has tried to come to terms with their loss, visiting the grave, at the Hardwick Hill Cemetery, regularly to this day.

Mrs Biddle said: "We had a light up a tree. It wasn't on all the time, it only came on if anybody walked near the grave. My husband put it there as a safety factor. With the lay-by next door you get a lot of lorry drivers.

"We've been up there and people have been having sex in the car park, there's been drugs being dealt up there, it's not a safe as people think.

"I have phoned the police, they said they would patrol there once a night. I have notified the council several times and nothing seems to get done about it."

About a year ago their concerns shifted from a general sense that the area could be better policed to one of anger and hurt as specific items began to go missing.

Mrs Biddle said: "I went up there and that light went missing. Then we had another light in the shape of a star. It was near to Christmas time and we thought it would be Chrismassy for her as she adored Christmas. That was smashed to smithereens."

This past Saturday Mrs Biddle again approached the town council, who own and run the site, via the monthly councillor surgery.

"We talked about the lights that had gone missing. Cllr Hussain said she totally agreed with me, people have no right to take things from the graves, it's not on," she said.

Mrs Biddle was assured that the issue will be raised during the next available council meeting.

A spokesman for Banbury Town Council said: “The council regrets that items have been stolen from a grave in Hardwick Hill Cemetery and extends its sympathies to Mrs Biddle.

“Thefts from graves are both regrettable and despicable but sadly there are a small number of callous individuals who have no respect for other people’s property or their grief.

“The council would, however, assure residents that thefts from cemeteries happen only occasionally and that security measures are already in place.

“The town’s cemeteries are opened at 8am every day and closed at sunset or 9pm whichever is the earlier.

“The council has comprehensive guidelines and laws regarding cemeteries and under the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 there are a number of offences that apply when the cemetery is open and when it is closed.

“It is impossible for the council to patrol the cemeteries 24 hours a day, seven days a week and floodlights suggested by Mrs Biddle might not deter thieves and could even encourage night time intruders.

“Thefts could occur in daylight hours. There is a constant throughput of visitors to cemeteries and a thief kneeling at a graveside would attract no more attention than someone legitimately tending a grave.

“The council believes that no-one would want cemeteries to become barbed-wire fortresses, or for visitors to be asked for identification when they arrive to tend graves.

It concludes: “The council can only advise people not to leave attractive, easily-removed items on graves.”

There have been other trinkets from other graves stolen including a Micky Mouse ornament.

Mrs Biddle said: "When I go up there I feel closer to her. If somebody needed the lights I would have given them to them. It's fact that somebody has nicked them.

She added: "I know quite a few people with family buried up there and they are sick of it. The next thing they'll be smashing stones up."

If you have any information regarding thefts from the Hardwick Hill Cemetery call police on 101.