THIEVES tried to steal 36 Christmas wreaths from graves at Ringwood Cemetery on Monday morning, but were foiled by ground staff.

Grieving families were devastated to find their wreaths had disappeared from their loved ones’ graves.

On receiving 12 reports of missing wreaths, ground staff did a sweep of the grounds and found 36 holly wreaths had gone missing.

On closer inspection they found them stacked up against a wall at the back of the cemetery - ready to be collected by the thieves.

Ringwood town clerk Terry Simpson said: “If it wasn’t for our alert ground staff, the wreaths would have been stolen and people would have been left devastated.

“It is despicable that thieves would steal from a grave. It could have been a good income for someone, to perhaps sell them on, but fortunately they were unsuccessful.

“We have had to keep the pedestrian gate to the cemetery locked.

“We will be opening it in the next few days, but we will be keeping a close eye on the cemetery.”

Ringwood councillor Brian Terry said: “This sort of crime is the lowest of the low. To target grieving relatives and loved ones is shameful.”

A Hampshire Police spokesman said: “When the loss of a loved one affects families, many continue to keep that family member in their life by regularly visiting and attending their graves.

“This sort of behaviour has a huge impact on those families and is a despicable and cruel act.”

He added: “I would urge anyone who has any information to ring Hampshire Police on 101.”

If anyone has recently placed a wreath on a grave and find it missing, they are asked to call into the shed near the toilets at the cemetery.