War memorial sold for scrap

Councillor John Kelly with the newly restored memorial in Grangetown cemetery
Councillor John Kelly with the newly restored memorial in Grangetown cemetery
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A MEMORIAL to Wearside’s war dead was stolen by thieves and sold for scrap – for just £125.

The sickening theft from Grangetown Cemetery left the families of the Second World War bombing victims hurt and shocked.

Now two men have admitted their role in selling on the memorial to a scrap dealer.

The 4ft by 2ft plaque, inscribed with the names of civilian bombing victims, was ripped from a lodge at the cemetery and dumped on a piece of grassland.

The brass tribute was then found by Anthony Roberts who, along with his pal John Ferguson, took it to a scrapyard in Pallion where it was traded in for a meagre £125.

It was only later when the metal merchant realised what he had bought, he contacted the police who arrested the pair.

Roberts, 18, of Greta Terrace, High Barnes, and Ferguson, 37, of Athol Road, Hendon, both admitted handling stolen goods and are due to be sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court on Friday.

Roberts had admitted his guilt during a magistrates’ court hearing.

Ferguson had originally denied wrongdoing and was due to be tried by a jury at the crown court yesterday. But before a jury was sworn in he changed his plea to guilty.

The court heard the plaque had been found face down and neither Roberts nor Ferguson knew what it was.

Bob Spragg, defending Ferguson, told the court yesterday: “He had no idea it was a war memorial. He never saw that side of the piece of metal.”

The memorial would have cost £15,000 to replace but it has since been restored.

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for safer city and culture, said; “Any theft, but particularly from a cemetery, is despicable and it’s the kind antisocial behaviour we are not prepared to tolerate in our city.

“The bronze plaque commemorating the civilian casualties of WW2 was stolen in October last year from the chapel wall at Grangetown, causing great distress to relatives and friends of those who had lost their lives.

“The plaque had been badly damaged but we have had it restored by a local company and were able to return it to the cemetery in time for last year’s Remembrance Day.

“The extent of the damage meant the restoration was an expensive process, but any memorial to those who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of their country is priceless and must be maintained.”

Steven Miller, 27, of El Kebir Road, Hendon, faced the same handling charge, which was dropped during the hearing yesterday.

l Was your family member listed on the stolen memorial, contact the Echo newsdesk, tel: 501 7208.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho