POLICE are hunting a vandal who has inflicted identical damage on ten gravestones in three neighbouring Suffolk villages.
In each case the top left-hand corner was chipped away. Five in one row were attacked in the parish cemetery beside St Mary Magdalene’s, Bildeston; three were attacked six miles away at St Mary’s churchyard in Willisham; and two more at nearby St Mary’s in Nettlestead.
Apart from the similarity in church names, there are no obvious links or clues to why or by whom they were damaged. “It’s quite weird,” the Honorary Curate of Bildeston, the Revd Liz Law, said. “It looks like it’s been done with a hammer and chisel. It’s been done very neatly, and got bigger as they went along the row. The pieces are missing; so they didn’t just do it for the sheer hell of it.”
The Priest-in-Charge at St Mary’s, Nettlestead, the Revd Jenny Seggar, said: “The families are absolutely devastated — one has said it’s like losing their dad all over again. They are bewildered and shocked. None of us know what to make of it. There is no suggestion of some occult motive. I suspect it’s someone with a mental illness, and, to them, what they are doing must seem totally logical.”
She believes that the culprit deliberately targeted the churches. “The route between the villages is not straightforward; it wiggles along country roads, people really have to know where they are going, which suggests it is somebody who knows the churches and where they are.
“It might look like minor damage, but repairs mean either a new stone, or having the damage carved out, which will cost hundreds of pounds, and that has to come from the families’ own pockets.”
She said they had considered closing their churchyards, “but we want them to be spaces used by our community; so we are encouraging people to visit them. If there is a lot of coming and going, it will discourage those who have evil intent.”