Anger over theft from crematorium and memorial gardens

Claire Austin is preparing to take on a survival challenge in the Arctic Circle to raise money for H

Claire Austin is preparing to take on a survival challenge in the Arctic Circle to raise money for Home-Start Hertfordshire - Credit: Archant

Equipment used to maintain memorial gardens has been stolen from the grounds of a crematorium, sparking outrage and prompting offers of donations to help pay for replacements.

The grounds and maintenance buildings at Harwood Park Crematorium and Memorial Gardens in Stevenage's Watton Road were broken into sometime between 9pm and 11pm on Saturday and a grounds vehicle and lots of garden power tools were stolen. 

Claire Austin, managing director of Austin's Family Funeral Directors, which owns the crematorium and memorial gardens, said: "The suspects gained access via the bridleway which links Watton Road with Bradbury Lane in Datchworth by cutting the wire perimeter fence. They then broke into our secure grounds maintenance containers. They decamped with the Kubota grounds vehicle and the majority of our maintenance equipment, including strimmers, hedge cutters, drills and tools. We believe they left via the bridleway, towards Datchworth."

The theft has led to outrage on social media, with those responsible branded "disgusting evil people" and the theft "shameful".

It has also led people to offer donations to help pay for replacement equipment, to which Claire said: "Thank you for the sentiment. We are fully insured and will be able to replace the items. It is more the inconvenience of being without the equipment we need until we can replace it."

One appalled woman said: "We have a tree there for my dad and the grounds are always impeccably maintained - now they won’t be until the insurance pays out and new equipment can be sourced, which I’m guessing isn’t going to be easy. Whoever stole this stuff is the lowest level of criminal."

If you were a witness to the incident, or have any information about it, you can report it to Hertfordshire police by calling the non-emergency number 101. You can also report information online here, or speak to an operator in the Force Communications Room via the online web chat.

Alternatively, you can stay anonymous by contacting the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their untraceable online form.

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