Visitors to Newmarket's cemetery report threats from travellers
Visitors to Newmarket cemetery are being abused and threatened by members of the travelling community when they visit the graves of their loved ones, a council was told on Monday.
The alleged incidents have been reported to Sue MacDonald, of West Suffolk Council, which manages the cemetery in Cambridge Road.
She told members of the town council’s community and leisure services committee in an email, one of the complaints she had received was from a visitor visiting the grave of her granddaughter last month.
“She said there was a group of travellers who had a horse and a small cart which they were riding around within the cemetery. They were also having a picnic, there were topless men drinking alcohol and they were not practising social distancing,” said the email.
“She said they made her feel uncomfortable and she was upset by their behaviour which was not appropriate in the cemetery. She also reported lots of cars in the cemetery.”
Ms MacDonald added:“While I appreciate we have to be careful not to label people, this is as it was reported to me and I know we do have a proportion of traveller burials at the cemetery and I have been made aware of previous problems with inappropriate behaviour by one particular family. There have also been reports from other cemetery visitors who have received abuse and threats from members of the traveller community.”
She said the cemetery’s top gates had a padlock for which registered disabled visitors paid a small fee for a key. But she said the key had been copied and was left in the wall close by the gate for everyone to use.
“There have also been times when I have witnessed visitors using the gates and not locking them behind themselves,” she said. “The lock has also been stolen on at least two occasions.”
Visitors who were threatened had been advised to report incidents to the police but Ms MacDonald said they either felt too scared to do so or that it would be pointless and nothing would be done.
“I am sure that if we all work together then we should be able to find a more suitable solution to the problem but I think the council should be aware there may be a cost involved to reach the required result,” she said.
Cllr Chris O’Neill suggested investigating a lock system used by local allotment holders whereby a key could not be removed from the lock unless it was locked. “Anyone who left the gate unlocked would lose their key,” he said.