West Hoathly grave plaques stolen from churchyard

Damaged grave markers at St Margaret's, West Hoathly Image copyright St Margaret's, West Hoathly
Image caption Thieves targeted plaques on terraces in the churchyard

More than 50 grave markers have been stolen from a churchyard in West Sussex.

The metal plaques were taken on Tuesday afternoon from the churchyard of St Margaret's in North Lane, West Hoathly.

A witness saw a "couple of men carrying what he thought were slates", the Reverend Nicol Kinrade said.

She said 55 metal plates were stolen and about another 10 were damaged as the thieves tried to prise them off the walls, she said.

"The thieves went along the whole terrace where the ashes are interned," she said.

Image copyright St Margaret's, West Hoathly
Image caption A number of plaques were left on the ground when the thieves fled

Two people were seen at about 15:15 BST on Tuesday carrying a bucket.

"They ran off and although it seemed odd, no connection was made between the bucket's content and the terraces," the Reverend Kinrade said.

"This affects a huge number of families in the village who have lost grave markers of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. There's a lot of hurt and a lot of anger."

She said the plates were made of brass or metal alloys.

"Their value is nothing compared to the emotional damage which has been caused."

Sussex Police said it was investigating the theft of the memorial plaques.

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