Heartbreak at damage and theft from family graves in Sunderland cemetery

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery.
George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery.

A grieving man has slammed thieves and vandals who have targeted a Sunderland cemetery.

George Turnbull has been left distressed after finding damage caused to the plots of his wife and parents at Castletown Cemetery.

Castletown Cemetery

Castletown Cemetery

The 60-year-old, from Red House, lost his beloved wife of seven years Beverley Ann, 52, when she died in her sleep in September 2015.

His dad George Stroud Turnbull, 76, passed away in June 2008, followed by his mother Catherine Armstrong Turnbull, 77, on New Year’s Eve 2012.

Since their deaths, he has tended to their graves, leaving tributes and keepsakes as he copes with his loss.

But during the last six months, he says theft and damage at the cemetery has got out of hand, with candles he has had blessed taken, along with a bottle of spirits he had left on Beverley’s grave after he was presented with it after a race at Sunderland Greyhound Stadium was named after her in tribute.

I’ve contacted the police and the council and they’ve both told me they can’t do anything about it.

George Turnbull

He says damage has been caused to other plots, with cars knocking down headstones and crosses broken, with items also taken from elsewhere from the Castletown yard.

On one occasion he stopped a man who was unscrewing a bench, ready to steal it in his van.

The former carer, who had to give up his job when he was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, has complained to both Sunderland City Council and Northumbria Police in the hope the incidents will stop.

His grief has been compounded by the loss of his daughter after his wife, who had two grown up sons, miscarried their daughter in 2010.

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery. George with wife Beverly Thurnbull

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery. George with wife Beverly Thurnbull

George, who has arranged to be buried alongside his wife when his time comes, said: “Over time I think this will become total anarchy because of what is happening, people will take matters into their own hands and it could get violent.

“I’ve contacted the police and the council and they’ve both told me they can’t do anything about it.

“I put it down to the fact we’re becoming a lawless state.

“I just can’t understand the mentality of these people.
“I’m an old fashioned man and our Nanna brought us up and said if you steal from a cemetery or damage it, you would be struck down by lightening.

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery. George's parents Catherine and George

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery. George's parents Catherine and George

“I think the dead suffered enough in life and I can’t understand why anyone would do this.”

Councillor Michael Mordey, cabinet member for city services with the council, said: “Cemeteries are about providing peaceful, respectful and restful environments, and any forms of anti-social behaviour or vandalism are unacceptable.

“Anyone with information on thefts, vandalism or antisocial behaviour should contact the council or police immediately.”

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police added: “We’re aware of concerns around thefts and graves damaged in Castletown Cemetery and are making enquiries into this. 
“Officers are paying extra attention to the area and carrying out regular patrols.

“Anyone with information that may help police enquiries should ring Northumbria Police on 101 and speak to the Sunderland North Neighbourhood Policing Team.”

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery

George Turnbull's wife and parents graves have been targeted by thieves at Castletown Cemetery