Thief raided cemetery for gravestones

Burnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

A thief raided Nelson Cemetery at night, to steal gravestones and make himself £30, a court heard.

Ex-drug addict Liam Darcy and an accomplice set out to steal gravestones "to order" from the Walton Lane burial site.

The pair of crooks were disturbed by a dog walking off-duty policeman, who spotted them removing the stones. The officer saw Darcy dragging a large stone "slab" from a graveside and another man appeared from a plot and was sweating.

Burnley magistrates were told how headstones were toppled and memorial stones and carved tributes were also pushed over as resting places were desecrated so the duo could get their hands on the gravestones.

The slabs were ripped up and piled up ready to be taken away and Darcy provided a van to transport them. He had been offered £30 for his part in the despicable attack on the graveyard.

The 50-year-old, of Barkerhouse Road, Nelson, walked free from court after admitting attempted theft, on July 9th. He had at first claimed they weren't gravestones and had told the court: "They weren't nothing like that."

The defendant was given 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with a four-month curfew, between 6pm and 6am. Jobless Darcy, who gets employment and support allowance, must also £500 pay compensation.

Prosecutor Miss Parveen Akhtar told the court Mr Robert Careswell, Bereavement Services Officer for Pendle Council, found 14 Victorian graves had been defaced. Twenty-five stones which had been removed were recovered. The cost of repairing the graves was £500.

Miss Akhtar continued: "Mr Careswell says, 'I would like to add the distress this causes to relatives and the wider community who visit the graveyard and also the sight of desecrated graves is extremely distressing to those who attend a funeral of a relative'."

Alia Khokhar, defending, said Darcy was remorseful. He had had drugs issues for 20 years and had been on methadone.

Miss Khokhar said the defendant committed the offence when "financially things were very, very tight and he became tempted".

The solicitor described the offence as disgusting and added: "He does appreciate the gravity of the offence and the disgust the court must feel."

Sentencing, the chairman of the Bench said what Darcy did could have caused emotional distress, was organised and the gravestones were being stolen to order. He added: "It was from a cemetery, which is a sacred place for the bereaved and should be respected as such."