Heartbroken parents whose children’s graves have been “desecrated” in a High Wycombe cemetery joined forces for a silent protest against cemetery vandalism ahead of a district council meeting last night.
Darren Chandler and Heather Payne, who each have a child buried in the Snowdrop Garden at the cemetery in Hampden Road, stood together in a show of solidarity alongside supporters - including BFP reporters and councillors - outside the council offices before a cabinet meeting.
The group of protesters held up copies of the Bucks Free Press, which featured a front-page campaign calling for the council to act after a number of children’s graves were vandalised, outside the offices on Queen Victoria Road on Monday evening.
Mr Chandler started a campaign last year, setting up a petition after his eight-year-old daughter Olivia’s grave was “left bare” after thieves reportedly stole all the decorations around it.
Speaking before the meeting, she said: “I want to see what they have got to say for themselves. I want to see what the next step is and how much more pressure we need to put on them. A big police blue sign outside the cemetery is not a deterrent.
“Darren has been campaigning about this for four years. He saw a post I made about the issue on Facebook and we have tried to join forces and push this as far as we can.”
Following their protest, the campaigners joined the cabinet meeting where councillors approved a number of measures, including monitoring the number of reported incidents alongside a new process for recording the removal of items from graves by council officers.
Councillor Tony Green, chair of the High Wycombe town committee, said the team were “determined” to alleviate the problems faced by the distressed families.
He said: “The cemetery is very special to the people of High Wycombe and the people of the town committee. We are naturally distressed when incidents like this happen.
“Officers have worked hard to put in place patrols by council staff and police in the cemetery and put signs up but we aren’t going to stop there.
“We have asked officers to look further at the possibility of increased security. A couple of places have been found where fencing can be improved and that will be happening.
“We will be looking at this again CCTV in certain places in the cemetery. The cemetery is a public open space albeit closed at night. People do have the right to enter it and many have graves they want to visit and it’s quite right that they should be able to get in there without constraint.
“However we do have to balance that with security which is why we are looking at these measures.”
Cllr Jean Teesdale added that she was “very pleased” to see that work was being done to prevent the “dreadful” vandalism.
She said: “I cannot believe that any human being would do such things. I welcome the idea that [the council] are doing as much as they can. You can never make anything fool proof but at least it is going in the right direction.”