Plashet Cemetery in East London, scene of the worst-ever desecration at a Jewish burial ground five years ago, has been vandalised again.
Between 30 and 40 stones were pushed over last weekend; some were smashed and decorative figures were removed from other graves. Marble surrounds from some graves were pulled up and railings were damaged. Several tombs were smashed in and a small fire was lit against one wall.
Five years ago, more than 500 gravestones were damaged, leaving repair costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Three teenagers were charged over the incident; two of them pleaded guilty and a third was convicted after a trial. All were given light sentences.
United Synagogue head of burial Melvyn Hartog said that after this latest attack there would be a review of the cemetery’s security in partnership with police and the Community Security Trust.
“There was a security review after the 2003 incident and we installed rotor spikes on the walls, but they have still managed to get in. We will have to see what else we can do,” said Mr Hartog.
“It is very sad and frustrating that this has happened again. The people who do this are just cowards.”
The crime was being treated as a racist attack by police from Newham, who believed that the culprits got into the cemetery, in High Street North, Manor Park, on Saturday night.
Det Sgt Gerry Healy from Plaistow Community Safety Unit, who is leading the investigation, said: “They seem to have used pallets to help them get over the wall.
“Once inside, they made a fire and there was evidence of drinking. Then, for reasons only they know, they decided to knock over the gravestones. This seemed to have been planned and deliberate.
“We will be looking at the weak points in relation to security and there will be liaison with our crime prevention section. This needs to be reviewed after the events of the weekend.
“It’s shocking to think someone would deliberately cause damage to a burial site and so much distress to local families. The cemetery backs on to Lincoln Road, which is a residential area. The suspects must have caused considerable noise as they smashed the gravestones and we would like anyone in the area who saw or heard anything suspicious to come forward.”
Plashet Cemetery opened in 1896 and more than 28,000 people have been buried there. It is now effectively closed, with only one burial in the past few years.