War hero grave damage was 'caused by council lawnmower'

Damage to the Brierley Hill grave of a Victoria Cross war hero is now thought have been caused by a council lawnmower, according to police

Damage caused to the grave of a war hero which was initially thought to have been vandalism is now believed to have been caused by a council lawnmower.

Police say they are no longer treating the damage to Colour Sergeant Anthony Booth’s grave at St Michael’s Church in Brierley Hill as a crime.

Mr. Booth, who lived in William Street in the town, was awarded the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle following the Zulu War, in which he led his men to safety after coming under attack from Zulu warriors in the 19th century conflict.

A spokesman for West Midlands Police confirmed: “Police are not investigating a damaged grave in St Michael’s Church in Brierley Hill any further as it is believed the damage was caused accidentally by a council lawnmower.”

But Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environmental services at the council, said: “We have no evidence to suggest that this was damaged by a lawnmower and we have had no reports from our staff.

“This is a very important memorial paying tribute to a local hero and we would urge anyone with any information to come forward as soon as possible.”

The headstone in the church's graveyard was found knocked over last week, causing an outpouring of support after the Victoria Cross Trust said the grave had been damaged by vandals.

An online donation website raised over £3,000 in a matter of days to help fund the restoration of the grave.

Trust chief executive, Gary Stapleton, said he was keeping an open mind as to how the damage occurred.

“It is one of the theories being bandied about but there is no evidence either way," he said.“There is no evidence to say it was vandals and there is no way to say it was a lawnmower, runaway horses or any other theory. If it was a lawnmower why have they not admitted it? The very fact it was not reported, that’s desecration by vandalism as far as I’m concerned even though it’s not seen as a criminal thing.”


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