Racist vandals target 24 Muslim graves in Leeds cemetery

A third attack on muslim graves in a Leeds cemetery in nine months is being treated as "mindless racial vandalism" by police.

Detectives probing the damage to 24 graves at Harehills Cemetery on Sunday night are now combing CCTV footage.

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Numerous name plaques were ripped from grave marker posts and a headstone was pushed over.

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Other grave marker posts were pulled up and strewn about causing great distress to relatives and friends of the buried.

After the second attack on Muslim graves in September police installed covert CCTV cameras to deter further damage and that footage is being examined by North East Leeds CID and further forensic work carried out.

The attack between September 17-20 involved at least 20 Muslim graves.

Permanent headstones and temporary timber grave marker boards were demolished or uprooted. Fencing surrounds were ripped up, motorcycle tyre marks were scored into grave toppings and beer cans strewn about the cemetery's 100 plot Muslim section.

That damage resulted in further calls for permanent CCTV cameras at the extensive cemetery as it followed a similar incident around March.

Insp Michael Lawrenson, of the Gipton and Harehills Neighbourhood

Policing Team, said: "Understandably this has caused a great deal of distress to people in the local community and I want to reassure them we are doing everything within our power to catch those responsible and prevent further incidents.

"Since this was reported to us on Monday we have contacted community leaders to help us contact the next of kin of those whose graves have been damaged in this mindless act of racially motivated vandalism."

He added: "The damage undermines the work we have done alongside Leeds City Council to make the area as secure as possible through increased patrols as well as the installation of covert CCTV cameras.

"However, with the security of any cemetery, a delicate balance needs to be struck between securing the site and ensuring people can access it to pay their respects."

Anyone with information should contact Det Con James Pearson at Stainbeck CID via 0845 60 60 606 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Coun Mohammed Rafique (Lab, Chapel Allerton) said it was at least the third attack in a year.

Though reluctant to talk of racism, he said that conclusion was inescapable.

The attacks were neither isolated or random and Muslim graves had been desecrated on all occasions.

He said someone seemed "hell bent" on destabilising good community relations and creating needless tensions.

Investigation into tightening security had to be carried out, the councillor added.

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