RELATIVES are furious after all the memorial ornaments left on the graves of loved ones were removed by staff at a Swindon crematorium.

All of the personal objects were taken from plots at Kingsdown and left near the entrance.

Family members and friends only discovered what had happened after spotting a social media post on Monday.

The council has apologised for the distress caused.

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June Rice, whose parents’ graves are at the site, said: “I just could not believe it. When I first saw it on Facebook I thought it was a prank. I was absolutely fuming.”

June went to visit the cemetery first thing on Tuesday morning.

“There was no sign up saying what had happened or where you could go to find your items,” June said,

“All the graves were empty there was no pictures, or stones or anything.

“People were wandering around wondering where all their stuff was. It was very upsetting."

June, 63, who lives in Rodbourne, was eventually reunited with a stone pillow she normally has on the graves of her mother and father, Murial and Sydney Pryor.

She said “I was lucky that mine was the only one like it, but I feel sorry for people because a lot of this stuff looks the same. How are you going to tell which is yours unless it is actually personalised?

“With an everyday item it’s not going to make a big difference but when it’s something so personal, and you’ve chosen that particular item to put on your loved one’s grave whatever it be, it’s very disrespectful and upsetting to have it removed.

“It feels like they’ve just desecrated the graves,” she said.

June added that there should have been some sort of official communication about what happened.

“Obviously accidents and mix-ups do happen but then we should have all been notified about what’s happened. For people who aren’t on Facebook or don’t visit often, they’re not going to know their relative’s grave has been affected,” she said.

Swindon Advertiser:

June added these actions are particularly upsetting during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In my case, yes I’m upset but my mum died 23 years ago. Imagine if this happens to someone who had lost a loved one recently. Or if someone has just buried their child.

“These items are your memories, it’s all you’ve got. That and photographs. That’s all you’ve got left of the person you’ve loved.

“I just want to make sure that this never happens again.”

Swindon Advertiser:

A Swindon Borough Council spokesman said: “Words cannot express how sorry we are that this has happened and we would like to issue a heartfelt apology to all family members and visitors for any distress caused by the removal of these items.

“This was a genuine mistake by our team during routine maintenance of the area and affects some of the cremated plots and not the cemetery. But what happened was unacceptable and has caused unnecessary anxiety at an already difficult time. We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.

“We know how precious these items are to people and we have carefully placed all the items together so they can be collected and returned to the plots.

“Under normal circumstances we would have contacted every family member affected but, unfortunately, when the items were unnecessarily removed, we did not record the plots they belonged to.

“We put up a sign at the crematorium apologising for the error on Tuesday (December 1) and we have offered our support if required.”