20 May 2015

CCTV footage of man tampering with graves

2:53 pm on 20 May 2015

Several witnesses have come forward to the police about the vandalised Papakura Cemetery in Auckland at the weekend.

CCTV showing the man believed to have desecrated children's graves.

CCTV footage showed a man (in the top right corner) tampering with the graves Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Vandals targeted the cemetery in South Auckland over the weekend, attacking up to 40 graves and wrecking the children's area. Police said CCTV footage showed a man tampering with children's graves for three hours.

Decorations on graves and headstones were reduced to a pile of mangled crosses, flowers and toys.

After reviewing CCTV footage police believe one man to be solely behind the destruction at the cemetery, which left families heartbroken and perplexed.

Inspector Mark Rowbottom said the man was seen at about 8.30pm on Saturday and made no attempt to hide what he was doing despite a number of cars driving past during the three hours.

Police were seeking to identify the man, and have since increased patrols around and within the cemetery.

The vandalised cemetery in Papakura.

The vandalised cemetery in Papakura. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

They have described the vandalism as "very bizarre" and committed by someone who is probably mentally unstable.

Mr Rowbottom said the vandal would have been left with dirt and mud on him.

He said they were also seeking a potential witness, a man spotted on CCTV footage half an hour before the vandalism took place.

Family devastated

Mera Horton's grandchildren Faith and Hope died shortly after they were born.

She said their mother discovered the desecration when visiting their graves and finding the simple white crosses with their names on them broken in half.

Ms Horton said it was hard enough to bury your babies once, then hard again to feel as if they can not even rest in peace.

She said the whole family was devastated, and left wondering how someone could stoop this low.

The council's manager of cemeteries Catherine Moore said that their first priority was getting in touch with and supporting the families involved.

the vandalism has also sparked an outcry from the local community

The vandalism has sparked an outcry from the local community. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Auckland Council had to moved quickly to dispel the notion that it may have been responsible for the desecration of graves in Papakura, earlier today.

Two years ago, Auckland Council contractors destroyed the decorations on infants' graves at Waikumete Cemetery, forcing the local authority to apologise.

Papakura local board's Michael Turner said he got a call this morning, about some very distressed people who thought the council had done it again.

He said they were taking it out on council staff and he had to explain that no-one to do with the council was involved.

Any witnesses to the vandalism are being urged to come forward, while anyone worried about a headstone should contact the council.