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Tomb raider fears in Oldswinford after gruesome grave discovery
11:00am Thursday 4th October 2012 in News
John Sutton, St Mary's administrator, and church warden Tony Tatford by a badly damaged grave in the Oldswinford churchyard
TWENTY-first century grave robbers may be at large in Oldswinford after a spate of gruesome churchyard incidents.
Tombs in the graveyard at St Mary's Church on Rectory Road have been damaged by crooks, who church leaders think could be up to more than vandalism.
Large stones have been disturbed and the sides of monuments broken by people who could be trying to get into the graves, believing they contain lead linings or valuable items buried with their owners.
Church administrator, John Sutton, aged 51, said: "Somebody has been trying to get inside, we can't work out a motive.
"It could be children wanting to have a look in a grave or something more sinister - this is not something you could do without six or seven hefty fellows.
"For someone to have done that would have taken far more effort than to turn over a few gravestones."
Four tombs dating back hundreds of years have been attacked over the past two months but, due to their location in a remote part of the graveyard, the damage has only just been discovered.
Although the families of the deceased no longer tend the graves, church members feel they have a duty to preserve the sites.
Mr Sutton said: "This shows a complete lack of respect, this is sacred ground. We feel as a church we have to look after the graves for people who can't.
"We have got to get them repaired - that will cost several thousand pounds."
He added the sight of disturbed graves is also distressing for people visiting the churchyard to tend the graves of family members.
Churches are a common target for metal thieves looking to cash in on high prices for stolen goods and West Midlands Police has a number of initiatives underway to tackle one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK, which is estimated to cost the economy £770m.
Cops patrol regularly in the area around St Mary's churchyard and have launched an investigation into the damage to the graves.
They say although grave robbing is not currently a line of inquiry, anyone with information should call Stourbridge police on 101.