A 41-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage after headstones were knocked over and smashed at a Jewish cemetery in Kent.
Last Friday, members of Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Rochester discovered the damage, which marked the eight act of serious vandalism the community had suffered in the last decade.
The shul, which is attached to the cemetery, has also had been smeared with excrement, had graffiti painted on its doors, and seen its CCTV camera attacked and destroyed.
Police believe the latest damage, which amounts to around £19,000, was caused between August 15 and 18.
The incident is being investigated as a hate crime. A spokesman for Kent Police told the JC: "A 41-year-old local man has today been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and taken into custody.
"Investigators are continuing to appeal for witnesses and anyone with information to contact them."
Nick Sparkes, Kent Police’s North Division Superintendent, added: "This type of crime is thankfully very rare, but has understandably caused a great deal of distress in the local community.
“We have spoken to those responsible for the cemetery and will continue to offer advice about crime prevention measures.
Smashed: some of the devastation at Chatham Memorial Synagogue's cemetery that was discovered last week (Photo: Chatham Memorial Synagogue)
"Our officers are investigating this as a hate crime and local patrols will continue to monitor the area. If anyone has any concerns I would encourage them to speak to officers and PCSOs when they see them.
"We are still urging anyone who may have seen or heard the damage being caused, or anyone acting suspiciously in the area, to contact the appeal line.
“Residents or businesses with private CCTV and motorists with dashcam are also asked to check for relevant footage."
A string of attacks against the Chatham Memorial Synagogue has left some Jews in Rochester living in fear.
Though security guards are now present at every service, at least one member will not worship in person.
Shul trustee Dr Dalia Halpern-Matthews said the cemetery alone had been attacked five times since 2013.
“We shouldn’t be having to put up with the mass destruction of something that should be sacred,” she said.
“The cemetery is very special obviously in terms of every individual grave, but when you consider that it is the only shul with a cemetery attached in the country, it is a very significant shul. It has been Grade II listed for many years.”
The JC is backing a fundraising campaign to secure the money needed to pay for urgent safety improvements.
Anyone with information concerning shul’s vandalization should call 01634 792209, quoting crime reference 46/152042/23.
To donate to fund security improvements for Chatham Memorial Synagogue visit www.chathamshul.org.uk.