Gravestone destruction at Minster investigated as ‘hate crime’

The destruction of dozens of gravestones in the churchyard of Croydon Minster at Easter is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police as a hate crime, the MP for the area and the Vicar of Croydon have confirmed.

Hate crime: the scene outside Croydon Minster after three nights of vandalism

More than 20 headstones were smashed, the graves desecrated, some which date back nearly 300 years.

The wanton vandalism occurred over at least three successive nights, from Wednesday April 12 to Friday, April 14. Stones were pushed over, broken into pieces and the debris left lying around. It is believed that a sledgehammer may have been used by the vandals.

“I was deeply shocked by the serious damage to gravestones at Croydon Minster, which is being treated as a hate crime,” Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central and Labour’s shadow policing minister, said last night.

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable.”

Jones joined the congregation at the Minster’s regular service last Sunday to express her support to Canon Andrew Bishop, the Vicar of Croydon, and the church community.

Yesterday, Jones wrote that the police had advised that the investigation is being conducted on the basis that a hate crime had been committed based on religious prejudice and hostility. “That investigation is being led by the dedicated Hate Crime Unit and all reasonable lines of enquiry are being actively pursued”.

The MP said: “I have full confidence that the police will carry out a very thorough investigation.”

There is little firm evidence for the investigation to work with. It is known that there was no CCTV footage of the Minster churchyard, and the vandals’ attacks occurred during wet weather, which will have also reduced any traces of their presence, leaving detectives reliant on eye-witness evidence or those involved coming forward.

According to MP Jones, “Reassurance and prevention patrols are ongoing in the centre of Croydon and Fairfield ward and a regular police presence is being maintained.”

Assurances: Canon Andrew Bishop has messaged his congregation about the attack

In his weekly Minster bulletin, Canon Bishop wrote that the Superintendent for neighbourhood policing in Croydon, Supt Mitch Carr, has been in touch “to offer assurances”. Next week’s Coronation is “presenting deployment challenges” for the police as they maintain patrols in the area.

“The police’s faith and hate crime liaison officer is fully aware of what has occurred and will be as proactive as possible in offering reassurance to faith communities,” the vicar wrote to his congregation.

In her statement, Jones said, “As the MP for Croydon Central, the historic area around the Minster is of great symbolic, cultural and historic importance to me, my constituents and the wider Croydon community.

“This act of vandalism and desecration is deeply distressing, especially coming around Easter… Hate crimes have no place in our society and this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable.

“I urge anyone with information to contact the police.”

  • If anyone has any information about who carried out the destruction, please contact the Metropolitan Police by phoning 101

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