THE grave of the man acquitted of one of the North-East's most notorious murders has been desecrated by vandals.

The family of Lawrence Wood said they were devastated when they heard of the damage to the headstone, which stands in St Mary's Church, in Coxhoe, near Durham City.

His younger brother, Logan, is now offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible.

During the attack, red paint was daubed across the headstone, obliterating Mr Wood's name, while other graves were left untouched.

Yesterday, Logan Wood said: "I found out on Saturday morning when the vicar rang to let me know. I was devastated.

"I went down to see the damage and it was very upsetting. It had been deliberately targeted."

In 1979, Lawrence Wood, a member of a well-known family of travellers, was found not guilty of the murder of his former lover, fairground heiress Miriam Culine, after a sensational trial.

The body of Mrs Culine - dubbed the Candy Floss Queen - had been found in a burnt-out car in allotments in West Cornforth, County Durham, the previous year.

Mr Wood, then an out-of-work horse dealer, admitted having had an affair with Mrs Culine, who had worked on the fairground's candy floss stall, but denied her murder and was acquitted by a jury in less than four hours.

Mr Wood went on to became a well-known figure at the annual Yarm Fair, leading his pony behind the civic dignitaries as they toured the town's boundaries for a number of years, until his death in an apparent sui- cide 18 months ago, at the age of 46.

Logan Wood said yesterday that he had no idea who had vandalised his brother's final resting place, but did not think the incident was connected to events during the 1970s.

He added: "What kind of person would do that?

"They must be wrong in the head - they're scum."