Desecration of graves in Manchester

Hillary and Maurice Craft view the damage at Blackley cemetery

Hillary and Maurice Craft view the damage at Blackley cemetery

A double attack on a Jewish cemetery in Manchester has been condemned by police as "sickening" and "the work of cruel racists".

North Manchester's Blackley cemetery was targeted twice in two weeks, causing an estimated £100,000 worth of damage to dozens of graves, including seven belonging to one family.

Gravestones were smashed and swastikas and antisemitic graffiti were painted and scratched on historic headstones dating back to the 1900s in an attack thought to have taken place last Sunday evening.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were conducting door-to-door inquiries in surrounding streets.

Inspector Mike Reid said: "This is a sickening and cruel act of racism." The police were treating the incident as a hate crime, which "should we find those who committed this cowardly act, will allow the courts to impose harsh punishments."

Police are also investigating an earlier incident of anti-Jewish daubings at the cemetery thought to have occurred two weeks before, but discovered only last week.

Members of the local Jewish community with relatives buried in the cemetery reacted with horror at the damage.

Bernard Freeman, 88, who discovered that the gravestone of his late mother, Martha, had been destroyed said he was "upset and disgusted."

Hillary Craft, whose grandparents' and mother's graves had been damaged, said she was devastated.

According to Harry Johnston, North Manchester Cemeteries Trust (NMCT) infrastructure manager, £100,000 had recently been spent on upgrading facilities at the cemetery. "In just one hour someone has ripped out that investment," he said.

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism, said the scale of the damage at Blackley was the worst it had seen for several years. He said: "We estimate that around 45 gravestones were pushed over or damaged. That would have taken a lot of effort, quite a bit of time and would have made a lot of noise. Most desecrations involve damage to a handful of gravestones."

NMCT has appealed on for volunteers to join a team clearing the damage on Sunday.

    Last updated: 12:20pm, June 26 2014