Babies' graves hit in 'destructive rampage'

Click through the above images to see some of the damage.

NINE headstones and the trinkets on the graves of babies and children have been destroyed in what police said was a “destructive rampage” at the Benalla Cemetery.

Benalla Cemetery Trust secretary Jeff Knight said he would prefer to think the damage was “pure stupidity”, but the scale of destruction meant police were looking at 53 cases of criminal damage.

“It makes you think they were deliberate in their actions,” Mr Knight said.

“I’d like to think it was stupidity, but it’s more than that — it’s depravity.”

Police believe that on Saturday night at least two people walked into the Benalla Cemetery, off the Baddaginnie-Benalla Road and began a “destructive rampage” across more than a hectare.

Nine headstones were destroyed, vases smashed and trinkets, including porcelain dolls commemorating children and babies, thrown against headstones.

Mr Knight said one of the graves dated to pre-1890.

A wrought-iron railing was kicked in around the unmarked grave, believed to be that of a member of one of the region’s pioneering families.

Mr Knight said with no clue as to who was buried in the grave, it may never be repaired.

He said cemeteries were a link to the past and those interred were “not left to rest when something like this happens”.

“I feel sad for the families who will be distraught.”

Mr Knight said the trust was keen to find the families of those in damaged graves. He urged people who thought their loved ones’ graves might be affected to phone the trust.

He said insurance may be claimed for the damage.

Sgt Shannon Murphy said up to 53 families were affected.

He expected an early arrest.

“We hope items found at the scene, along with the public outrage that will most likely occur, will cause offenders being shamed into coming forward,” he said.

Sgt Murphy would not reveal what “items of interest” were found at the scene.

He said police had spoken with witnesses.

Anyone with information should phone Benalla police on (03) 5762 1811 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information is accepted anonymously.

Those affected by this attack can contact Jeff Knight on (03) 5762 5429.

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