A GROUP of volunteers is winning the war on the vandals who have blighted a Leeds cemetery.
The Friends and Relatives of Hunslet Cemetery group – made up of people whose loved ones are buried there – was formed in February last year.
Since then more than 1,000 people have joined a Facebook group backing the campaign to clean up the burial ground, off Middleton Road, after repeated vandal attacks.
Chairman Tracy Sheader, of Belle Isle, regularly visits the cemetery to pay her respects to her grandfather, Hanselom Stocks.
She said: “A lot of the plots were being vandalised and trinkets and mementoes left by family and friends were being stolen.
“At one stage the vandalism was on such a scale they were kicking down war memorials and then using the stone to smash up other memorials.
“In one case a statue was pushed over and because of its weight it opened up the ground of another grave.”
There were reports that some of the plots were so neglected that coffins were visible. Thieves also used a truck to steal gravel from graves.
The Friends group was set up by Dawn Horkan, whose brother Chris is buried at Hunslet.
Its aims are the upkeep, repair, restoration and security of the cemetery.
Members, who are supported by representatives from the church, police and Leeds City Council, also want permanent CCTV installed.
Tracy added: “In this day and age, there is little respect for the living, let alone the dead, but it’s fundamental that we respect our dead.”
About 12 volunteers took part in a clean-up of the cemetery by picking litter, tidying grassed areas and flowerbeds and refurbishing plots.
Coun Geoff Driver, who took part with the council’s parks and countryside department, said: “The Friends group have done a fantastic job of looking after this cemetery and they can be extremely proud of their efforts.
“We hope that there will be regular events of this kind throughout the year and we are always on the look-out for new volunteers to lend a helping hand.”