Families have been left devastated after at least 36 headstones were desecrated in a County Durham graveyeard.

Police are now investigating the vandalism at Pelton Cemetery, in Chester-le-Street, and Durham County Council's neighbourhood wardens have increased patrols in the area.

Authories are now appealing for people with information to come forward to help catch those reponsible for damaging and knocking over the memorials. 

The council is assessing the extent of the damage and its bereavement services team is in the process of contacting the affected families.

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Work is now underway temporarily reinstating and securing the headstones while conversations are ongoing with relatives of people buried in the cemetery.

The council is also encouraging members of the public to report any information they may have to the police.

The Northern Echo: Councillor Mark Wilkes at the cemetery Councillor Mark Wilkes at the cemetery (Image: Durham County Council)

Councillor Mark Wilkes, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “This is a devastating incident affecting a number of families and we are appalled that anyone would seek to cause damage to headstones.

“We are supporting the families that have been affected and are in the process of contacting them about the reinstatement of the headstones.

"I would encourage anyone who has information about this incident to contact the police to help them identify who is responsible.”

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The Northern Echo:

Lee Morris, neighbourhood inspector at Durham Constabulary, said: “We received a report of damage to several headstones from a member of the public in Cemetery House, Pelton Lane, on November 28. Enquiries are ongoing.

“Anyone with information should report it quoting incident reference 176 of November 28 via our Live Chat at 101 Live Chat (durham.police.uk).”

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact Durham Constabulary or report it anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers.co.uk  

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