Cemetery thief strikes again

A THIEF has been slammed for targeting a grieving woman as she paid her respects at a graveside – in the second attack of its kind within days.

Police say the woman was left “shocked and distressed” when she returned to her blue Nissan Almera car at Stranton Cemetery, Hartlepool, to find her bag containing purse and cash had been snatched.

The victim was visiting a grave at the cemetery, in Brierton Lane, Hartlepool, between 2pm and 2.40pm on Tuesday, and returned to her car to find her bag had been stolen.

The incident comes after a similar attack at the cemetery last Saturday saw a woman have her bag snatched from her black Renault Laguna car.

It is also just weeks after the grave of keen cyclist Micheal Phillips was raided by thieves who stole a plaque and a metal model of a bike that was left to mark his 30th birthday on January 29.

Hartlepool Borough Council and campaigners have condemned the thefts and said action has been taken to improve security at the cemetery.

PC Ralph Bainbridge, of Hartlepool Police, said: “The victim has been left shocked and distressed that someone could steal from her while visiting a grave.”

Susan Connor, chairman of the Friends of Stranton Cemetery group, said: “We absolutely condemn these terrible acts.

“We are trying to encourage as many people as possible to use the cemetery as a green space which would make it difficult for thieves to be so opportunistic.

“We are working hard and we want to cut this out.”

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “We utterly condemn such mindless acts and can’t understand why anyone would stoop so low, particularly in and around the cemetery.

“Action has been taken recently to improve security at Stranton Cemetery.

“We have installed a CCTV camera, there is increased patrolling by Police Community Support Officers and council staff working on the site are asked to be particularly vigilant.

“We would also appeal to visitors to the cemetery to report anything suspicious to either the police or council staff working on the site.”

Anyone with any information about Tuesday’s theft is asked to contact PC Bainbridge on the non-emergency contact number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

To help support the cemetery, email: friendsofstrantoncemetery@hotmail.co.uk