Vandals cause $120k of damage to headstones

Broken headstones in the cemetery. Photo / Linda Robertson
Broken headstones in the cemetery. Photo / Linda Robertson

Vandals have desecrated headstones at a cemetery in Dunedin, causing about $120,000 damage.

Up to 12 headstones have been pushed, pulled or kicked over at West Taieri Cemetery, near Outram, and most of them are broken.

Bill Price (69), of St Clair, found his late mother's marble headstone lying flat behind the plot, split in to three pieces. The last time he had seen it upright was two weeks ago.

Bill Price surveys the damage to his late mother's headstone at West Taieri Cemetery. Photo / Linda Robertson
Bill Price surveys the damage to his late mother's headstone at West Taieri Cemetery. Photo / Linda Robertson

"It was pushed over and broken in half and there's at least four other ones there pushed over,'' he said.

"I was wild when I came out and had a look. It's family history for me ...''

Mr Price had cleaned and maintained the plot and headstone for about 20 years, which also has his ancestors' names etched on it, dating back to 1886.

His ancestors' headstone had been knocked over before, but that was by a lawnmower and it had not been damaged.

Monumental Masons owner Craig Morton, who creates, repairs and maintains headstones in Dunedin, said having assessed the damage, there was no question it was the work of vandals.

"They were definitely vandalised. Some of them are a reasonable distance from where they were situated. What Bill has seen is only a small part of it,'' he said.

Some headstones weighed more than 400kg and Mr Morton said there was no other reason for them to have toppled over or been broken other than deliberate acts by vandals.

"They don't just fall over by themselves. I have no idea, and cannot understand, why anyone would get a kick out of doing this ... desecrating a grave.''

It would cost between $8000 and $10,000 to repair each headstone.

Vandalism of headstones at Dunedin cemeteries was rare, he said.

"It's a very well-kept cemetery and there has been very little vandalism at West Taieri.

"Going back quite some time, 15 years ago, there was quite a bit of vandalism at Andersons Bay Cemetery.''

Senior Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Dunedin, said police had been informed.

- Otago Daily Times

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