Mourners scale gates to enter locked St Ives cemetery

Martina Anscombe climbing cemetery gates Image copyright Martina Anscombe
Image caption One mourner, Martina Anscombe, climbed the cemetery's locked gates

"Distraught" mourners were forced to scale the gates of a graveyard to lay flowers after they were left locked.

Twenty people were shut out of Longstone Cemetery in St Ives for several hours on Christmas Day, before one of them cut the chain.

Cormac, which maintains the cemetery for the town council, said its staff normally open the gates when they clean the toilets each morning.

The firm said unlocking the gates was "missed" because the toilets were shut.

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Martina Anscombe attended the cemetery with a bouquet for her parents' grave.

"There were quite a few cars there already, a few distraught people that couldn't get in... 45 minutes later there were a lot more distressed people there, especially elderly people trying to get in because their wives or husbands had passed away," she said.

Image caption St Ives Town Council said the cemetery gates were locked at night to protect a Barbara Hepworth statue inside

"About 10 minutes after I left I heard that someone had actually come with bolt cutters as they were so upset."

A spokesman for Cormac said: "The unlocking of the cemetery is a free service we provide as we clean the public toilets. As the toilets were closed on Christmas Day then it was unfortunately missed.

"We are really sorry for any distress that this caused and we will be discussing this with St Ives Town Council to ensure that this doesn't happen again."

The cemetery belongs to Cornwall Council and is maintained by St Ives Town Council which has sub-contracted the upkeep and security to Cormac for two years.

Roger Thomas, Director of GSD Security, said he attended the site to open the gates after mourners contacted its control centre: "When I arrived I found that the vehicle gates had already been opened, moments before, by a member of the public who had cut a link out of the gate chain.

"GSD Security are contracted by Cormac to check and lock Longstone Cemetery on a nightly basis but we have never been contracted to open the site.

"I immediately reported the situation to CORMAC as per our agreed process," he said.

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