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Edmonton cemetery monuments damaged by vandals

EDMONTON – Police are calling an overnight vandalism spree at a north Edmonton cemetery “shocking.”

About 66 monuments at St. Michael’s Cemetery were damaged, with many tombstones toppled or shattered, urns destroyed, and many personal memorial items scattered across the grounds.

“We were obviously shocked by the extent of the damage,” said Cst. Liam Watson with EPS Northeast Division. “It transpired that there were in fact 66 items of personal grave site artefacts, headstones, flowers, lanterns strewn across the cemetery.”

Police estimate the cost of the damage and restoration will be between $50,000 and $75,000.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to this mindless vandalism, which appears to be random, and possibly the work of several destructive individuals who had nothing better to do,” said Watson.

“We’re looking at a concerted effort by some individuals to create significant damage and – I would hope – completely unaware of the huge emotional impact on the families.”

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Watson said there have been 10 incidents of cemetery vandalism in Edmonton in the last three years, but added that this one is likely the worst.

“I don’t think anything on this scale.”

“Personally, I was very saddened,” Watson said. “The emotions behind each grave… each one’s a family member, each one’s a loved one.”

 

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“My parents are here, I have a sister here… and my brother-in-law,” said Elizabeth Sproule, who came to take stock of the damage. “Fortunately, the others are all right, except this one.”

Her brother-in-law’s headstone was damaged by the vandals.

“Get a life.  If you have so much energy, do some good.  There’s a lot of good you can do.  Why waste your energy on damaging? Hurting people?”

Bill Nurlock drove in from Spruce Grove to check on his family’s headstones. They sustained damage when the cemetery was vandalized about 10 years ago.

“The dead can’t even rest any more,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”

St. Michael’s staff reported the vandalism to police on Wednesday morning. The incident is believed to have happened sometime between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.

“Because (cemeteries are) the final resting place for our loved ones, their desecration can be devastating to the community,” said Marc Turgeon, manager of St. Michael’s Cemetery. “It’s truly saddening that families have to experience this kind of pain after already suffering the loss of a loved one.”

St. Michael’s Cemetery staff are in the process of assessing the damage, repairing the stones where possible, and contacting family members of the deceased whose plots were vandalized.

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“In a lot of cases there can be repairs that are done, so that they don’t have that extra cost to bear,” Turgeon explained.

Some individual monuments could cost up to $10,000 to repair or replace.

Those wanting to check on the status of a monument can contact the St. Michael’s Cemetery office at (780) 424-5493.

There is a chain-link fence around St. Michael’s Cemetery, but the front gate is left open so that loved ones can come and pay respects at any time. However, Turgeon said the cemetery is re-evaluating that issue and may consider locking the gate at a certain time.

Surveillance video of the cemetery is also being reviewed.

Watson said police are asking anyone with knowledge of the crime to come forward.

“Or, if the individuals involved themselves would care to clear their conscience for what is going to be looked upon fairly badly by the rest of the community…”

 

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