Gravestone damaged with hammer in ‘distressing’ churchyard attack

Holy Cross Church in Norwich Road where the gravestone was damaged.

Holy Cross Church in Norwich Road where the gravestone was damaged. - Credit: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

A gravestone in a village churchyard was left with scratches and a muddy footprint across it following a suspected hammer attack.

A family member was left upset when they discovered the headstone of a loved one had been damaged at a church in Stoke Holy Cross.

Police have appealed for information about the incident that took place sometime between 8am on Monday, March 22 and 10.30am on Wednesday, March 24 April at the Holy Cross Church in Norwich Road. 

The grave was the only one targeted in the attack.

The damage was spotted by a visitor to the churchyard who placed flowers at the gravestone and noticed a large scratch and marks, possibly caused by a hammer, as well as a large muddy footprint on the stone.

Stoke Holy Cross Church

A family member laying flowers discovered the damage to a gravestone at Stoke Holy Cross Church. - Credit: Evelyn Simak/Geograph

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The Holy Cross Church has a tower that dates to the 14th century and has a surviving medieval chapel. Many of the gravestones in its churchyard date back centuries but the one targeted in the attack was more recent.

Rob Baker, the vicar of the Venta group of churches, which includes Stoke Holy Cross as well serving the nearby villages of Arminghall, Caistor St Edmund and Dunston, said it was apparently deliberate damage.

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He said: “The grave is a more recent one, and the family discovered the vandalism when they visited it last week. 

“They cannot imagine why this grave has been targeted and we have been in touch with them to express our sympathies for this very distressing event.

“In the nine years I have been here I can’t recall another incident of this kind in any of our churchyards, but of course that doesn’t lessen the impact of the damage for the family concerned.”

In 2019 there were 95 crimes recorded at churches in Norfolk, including nine cases of lead theft; 40 cases of general thefts; and 37 cases of criminal damage.

Revd Baker said he would encourage anyone with any information about the damage to contact the police.

Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious during the times stated above or has information about the incident is asked to contact the Op Solve team at Norfolk Police on 101 or email quoting crime reference 36/19086/21.

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