Mother’s anger after items are stolen from baby’s grave

PUBLISHED: 12:53 08 May 2020

The family of baby Elijah James Chambers would like to add decorations on his grave to commemorate his life, but have had to leave it empty following issues at Eastwood Cemetery. Image: Submitted

The family of baby Elijah James Chambers would like to add decorations on his grave to commemorate his life, but have had to leave it empty following issues at Eastwood Cemetery. Image: Submitted

Codi-Lee Chambers

A mother has renewed calls for CCTV to be installed at a cemetery in March after items on her baby’s grave were tampered with and stolen - however Fenland Council say that “would not be an appropriate response”.

Recent incidents at Eastwood Cemetery in March has renewed calls for CCTV to be installed. Photo(s): HARRY RUTTERRecent incidents at Eastwood Cemetery in March has renewed calls for CCTV to be installed. Photo(s): HARRY RUTTER

Codi-Lee Chambers, and her partner Jamie Kennington, found out this week that fairy lights placed around their son’s grave at Eastwood Cemetery were no longer there.

Cuddly toys placed next to his resting place had also been moved.

She says similar incidents have happened on at least four occasions, and wants security cameras installed because many other families have also experienced issues.

Codi-Lee, who currently lives in Ramsey but is from March, said: “I can’t tell you how devastating it is to find out that gifts and decorations are being stolen or moved from your baby’s grave.

The grieving family of Elijah James Chambers place items on his grave to remember the baby they lost in November 2019. Image: SubmittedThe grieving family of Elijah James Chambers place items on his grave to remember the baby they lost in November 2019. Image: Submitted

“This has been going on now for too long and something needs to be done to stop this happening to us, and other families.”

She added: “We decorate our baby’s grave to let him know that we’re still there for him, that he’s not on his own.

“Now we have to leave the entire space empty because we can’t risk anything else happening. It looks horrible, it looks so bare.”

Elijah James passed away before he was born in November last year. His identical twin brother Kasper Lee was born at just 25 weeks and survived.

The family of Elijah James Chambers now have to leave their baby's grave bare following issues at Eastwood Cemetery in March. Image: SubmittedThe family of Elijah James Chambers now have to leave their baby's grave bare following issues at Eastwood Cemetery in March. Image: Submitted

Codi-Lee explained that there’s no way the items on Elijah’s grave could have possibly blown away because the cuddly toys didn’t move during the heavy storms earlier in the year and the lights were securely fastened.

She added: “I hope the people who are doing this to the graves never have to experience the pain of losing a child. What they’re doing is absolutely heartbreaking.”

In 2017, another March mum Jem Louise Hampson launched a petition calling on CCTV to be installed at Eastwood Cemetery after the family of a 14-year-old boy urged thieves to return a plaque stolen from his grave.

Following reports of the latest incidents, Councillor Peter Murphy, Fenland District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, was approached and asked whether the council could possibly consider installing a security camera.

While his area of responsibilities includes cemeteries, he explained matters about CCTV are dealt with by a council officer.

He said: “[You’ve been told to contact me] because I look after cemeteries, but you should talk to Phil Hughes manager of leisure at the council about this.”

A Fenland District Council spokesman said: “Although incidents of vandalism and theft in any of Fenland’s cemeteries are distressing, they are rare. Some of the issues previously reported have also not been a case of vandalism, but strong winds knocking mementoes off graves and damaging them.

“Given the very small number of criminal incidents over the past few years, locking cemeteries and installing CCTV would not be an appropriate or justified response. Our cemeteries are kept open for people to pay their respects when they wish, and they need a certain amount of privacy when doing so.

“We look after six open cemeteries in Fenland and 17 closed (closed to further burials) cemeteries, none of which have ever had any Council owned CCTV in operation.

“The only camera in operation at a cemetery is at Wisbech General Cemetery, which was fully commissioned and funded by the Wisbech Society.

“That cemetery has been closed to burials for almost 50 years and is one of the town’s unique heritage sites.

“Wisbech Society, which works with the council to preserve and manage the site, contribute an annual charge for the council to provide monitoring of the camera and lock the cemetery gates every night.

“Cemetery regulations providing clear information about cemetery management and visitor etiquette are posted on the board at the entrance to Eastwood Cemetery, as it is at cemeteries across the district.

“Criminal activity is not included in these regulations and we urge families to report any incidents of vandalism or theft to the police on 111.

“The council’s parks and open spaces team also maintains the cemetery, and cuts the grass there every two weeks during the summer.

“If local residents would like to work with the council to help maintain the cemetery, we can help with the formation of an Eastwood Cemetery Friends group.

“This has been successful in other areas of the district to keep Fenland’s cemeteries safe and welcoming places to go to remember loved ones in peace.”


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