Memorial to war heroes wrecked just days after warning over vandalism

Reporter: George Lythgoe, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 28 June 2024

Just days after warnings were issued over a rise in vandalism and arson, a memorial to a local war hero in neighbouring Middleton has been destroyed.

Local politician Coun Dylan Williams spoke out last week over the problems his area has with antisocial behaviour, bemoaning the recent incidents of flowers being pulled out of Middleton Gardens and fires being started on King George V park. 

Just days after this, more fires have been lit in the park and displays dedicated to soldiers who fought for their country have been wrecked.

The flowers planted by Middleton in Bloom on Veterans Walk, honouring the fallen soldiers, have been pulled out.

Over in Alkrington Woods, a natural willow woven fence around the memorial to the Middleton Fusiliers and local hero Lee Rigby has been ripped to pieces and burnt.

Pat Proctor, chair of Middleton in Bloom, has been left devastated by this latest stunt that has undone hours of volunteer work.

“I was absolutely devastated when I saw this,” she said.

“What got vandalised was a dedication to the Middleton Fusiliers and to Lee Rigby.

“Because of that, this one really hurt.

"There is lots of information next to this about what it’s for, so it’s not like they didn’t know what they were doing. 

“It is just senseless vandalism.

"It is volunteers that do all this. To see this is soul destroying.”

Lee Rigby, a Langley lad who had served in tours of Afghanistan, was murdered while off-duty just 200 yards from an army barracks back in May 2013.

He was only 25 when he was killed whilst taking a walk along a street in Woolwich, south east London.

Despite the damage done to the memorial in Lee’s honour in Alkrington,

Pat says that the volunteers will not be beaten by these vandals.

She explained that a number of volunteer groups have now rallied together in order to put back the displays to their previous glory.

Veterans Walk in Middleton, before it was vandalised. Image courtesy of Councillor Dylan Williams

Coun Williams said: “It is just getting worse and worse. It is completely out of control now.

“I think the council needs to hurry up with the installation of the new CCTV upgrade for the town centre.

"The money is there now.

“The police obviously need to get tough on these vandals and they need to do more to identify them and take action.

"I just feel like there is no deterrent at the moment.

“Punishment never seems to go beyond these antisocial behaviour contracts.”

The local Middleton councillor added that graffiti, off-road biking, vandalism and fire lighting are the biggest problems in the ward right now, and is keen to see this rectified. 

In a bid to tackle the antisocial behaviour problems, Greater Manchester Police have stepped up patrols in Middleton Gardens and around local parks and businesses.

This has seen numerous arrests and charges for a variety of offences, including drugs supply, weapons possession, and theft, according to GMP.

Following a recent crackdown in the area, sergeant James Donnelly, from GMP’s Rochdale Neighbourhood Team, said: “We are committed to tackling all manner of criminality in our community and will always target those who seek to disrupt the lives of others, whether that’s through drug dealing near people’s homes or causing mindless criminal damage.

“We have made numerous arrests in recent weeks and will continue to do so where this is necessary and proportionate.

"Where the offenders are young people, we work with partner agencies to work out why they may be offending: by putting the appropriate measures in place, we can both punish and prevent them from committing any further crimes.

“We urge anyone with any information to please get in touch with us, as all information, big or small, greatly increases our intelligence picture of who is doing what and when.

"This can aid us in pushing for charges and making sure criminals are punished and off the streets.

“Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

"You can also talk to an officer directly – they are always welcome to hearing more and are ready to provide advice and guidance.”

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