A heartbroken father is calling for tighter security measures at Harrogate’s Stonefall Cemetery after his baby boy’s grave was raided by thieves for a second time.
Chris Binnie’s son, Henry, was stillborn at 38 weeks, and to commemorate his first birthday on May 2, family members left wooden mice and a brass gecko next to his headstone.
But sadly the trinkets were stolen, and last week, in a further devastating blow, a Mickey Mouse teddy was also snatched from the grave.
Mr Binnie, 34, of First Avenue, said: “I can’t comprehend the mind set of somebody who thinks it’s ok to steal things from a little baby’s grave. It’s like someone has come along and punched you in the stomach. I think losing your baby is the worst kind of tragedy you can imagine. For people to intrude on that in this way just seems utterly mindless.”
The devastated dad said he knew of other families in Harrogate who had been targeted.
“I’m quite active in a local charity called Our Angels, which supports families following the death of a baby. I’ve had discussions with other parents who have got babies buried there and I know it happens to other people,” he said.
Mr Binnie is now calling on Harrogate Borough Council, which is responsible for the cemetery, to install CCTV cameras so children’s graves can be monitored more closely. He has met with the authority to find a way of preventing further thefts and is currently awaiting the results of an assessment to see if the demand for cameras warrants the cost.
He said: “I’d like to see cameras up there. Obviously there is a cost implication but some kind of additional measures are necessary. I can’t see anything will provide an effective deterrent other than CCTV.”
Mr Binnie is also urging families to report any incidents at the cemetery.
“Unless people report it there is no reason for the council to take action,” he said.
A council spokesman said the town’s cemeteries had “very few problems”, but leaving items could be risky as the public sites couldn’t be constantly watched.
He said: “The impact these losses can have on visitors who come to mourn is enormous. Hopefully raising awareness of this issue will go some way to stopping such incidents.
“To this end, the council has written to schools and residents asking for their support and vigilance. Surveillance by the council’s designated ranger and police continues and at the cemetery office there is now not only the recording of items disappearing from graves, but also any concerns we receive about the issue.”
The spokesman said signs relating to ‘items left at owners’ risk’ had also been put up.
He added: “We’re also carrying out an assessment on the benefits of installing CCTV. It could act as a deterrent but there are concerns a visible camera might have a severe effect on people’s ability to mourn as they would wish.”