COMMUNITY workers at a peaceful care home have spoken of their shock after youths stole memorial benches from its grounds and used them to set up a drugs den.
Five commemorative benches were taken from the Hospital of God, in Greatham, and dragged into a nearby wood, as reported in the Mail last week.
Workers at the care home have now spoken of their shock at finding three of the solid timber seats in a circle surrounded by piles of bottles and cans, the remains of fires and signs of drug use.
Two of the benches, which are estimated to be worth £2,500 and are inscribed with peoples’ names, are yet to be found since they went missing between Friday, January 21, and the following Monday.
John Churchman, head groundsman at the historic site, said: “I have no idea where they could have gone.
“All I can think is they are in someone’s garden somewhere or they have been sold.
“They have names on and we have been racking our brains to try and remember what they said.
“I know they are hefty things made of solid timber. You could see that when they were taken to the wood they had struggled to drag them. It’s incredible that they have moved them so far.
“You could judge by the amount of drink that there must have been 10 to 15 of them so it’s taken a lot of effort to drag them away.
“There was also the remnants of what police said was a bong for recreational drugs. You could say we are all a bit shocked by what has happened.”
It is not the first time the care home has been targeted by vandals.
Last year there was a problem with wheelie bins being stolen and set alight and there have been ongoing problems with people drinking along a public footpath that runs through the care home’s grounds and causing damage.
Mr Churchman added: “This is a nice peaceful place, so everyone is surprised that this sort of thing happens here.
“We don’t mind people using the path, they can even come and drink down it if they want to but just don’t damage anything, that’s just mindless.
“The benches get used by people here all the time, they are important as residents can come out and have a sit outside.”
Police and staff have scoured the area for the missing benches but have had no luck.
Anyone with information about their whereabouts is asked to call PC Julie Dobson on (01642) 302126 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.