A FAMILY has dismissed claims that rabbits are responsible for damage to their great-grandparents’ grave.
Louise Woodhead says she was told by Sunderland City Council that bunnies were to blame for chips and cracks on memorials at the grave in Hetton Cemetery.
The 30-year-old and her sisters, Joanna Woodhead and Claire Bradbury, had decorated the grave where Frances and James Groves are buried, along with the ashes of their grandparents Mary and Maurice Snowdon.
But days later they discovered damage to a plaque, angel sculpture and stepping stone.
“There’s no way that rabbits could have done that much damage,” said Louise, from Hetton. “It’s not fair to blame the poor little things.”
The council has dismissed claims the damage could have been done during grass-cutting.
Louise said: “There have been flowers eaten before when we’ve left them on the grave and yes, that will be the rabbits, but there’s no way they could have done this damage.
“The sculpture has a chip out of it and the stepping stone would have to have been stood on really hard to break like it has. There’s no way a rabbit could do that.”
The plaque bearing her grandfather’s name has now been removed, and the family feels that replacing it would be a waste of time.
She added: “It’s not really just about the money, it’s just so upsetting to go to the grave and see that the things you’ve left have been damaged. What’s the point in replacing them if it’s just going to happen again?
“The council have just blamed the rabbits for everything that’s gone wrong and they won’t step up and accept responsibility.
“It’s upsetting for us all, especially my nephew who was really upset when he saw the damage.”
Les Clarke, head of street scene at the city council, said: “We obviously take any concerns about family graves very seriously indeed and would urge people to report these directly to cemeteries staff.
“The manager of the city council’s bereavement service visited the grave with staff to investigate Ms Woodhead’s complaints and he will be contacting her directly.
“As the grave is paved with stone chippings and also kerbed, staff have no need to visit it to use either a strimmer or mower to cut the grass, so we can assure Ms Woodhead that any damage caused to the ornaments was not as a result of regular grounds maintenance.”
He added: “We are committed to keeping all our cemeteries neat and tidy.
“Advice and guidance is available to anyone who wants to decorate the grave itself with memorials or ornaments, but these remain the responsibility of the person who places them there.
“This guidance reminds people that cemeteries are public areas and the need for ornaments to be appropriate.
“It also asks people to consider the potential distress resulting from the damage or removal of these ornaments.
“We would ask all visitors to report any antisocial or inappropriate behaviour which might lead to such damage being caused.”