DEVASTATED families have spoken of their sadness after plaques remembering cherished loved ones were stolen from a cemetery in Benfleet.

Over the past four weeks, dozens of plaques placed in memory of relatives have been stolen from Woodside Cemetery, in Manor Road.

This has left residents upset and frustrated, sparking claims crooks have been “stealing them for scrap”.

Andrew Ransom, 47, found his nan’s, grandfather’s and dad’s plaque missing yesterday.

He said: “We are angry and upset that someone has the lack of respect to take the plaques from loved one’s graves.

“All for a bit of money from putting them in for scrap metal.

“For many people, it is all they have of a loved one. There was only a handful left in the rose gardens at Woodside Cemetery.

“I honestly don’t think these people care. It is just a bit of scrap metal to them.

“It is very frustrating as it is not just the fact they have been taken, it is also the headache and heartache of getting them replaced.”

Jane Jefferis, in her 60s, had her dad’s, nan’s and father-in-law’s plaques were stolen at the end of October.

She added: “We saw someone had posted on a Facebook group that lots had been stolen, and we went the next day to check and found ours gone too.

“It didn’t hit how upsetting this was until we saw how empty the flower beds were of plaques, and how many people would be impacted by the unbelievable deed.

“To then go on a birthday with flowers without a plaque, it then very upsetting again.

“We won’t go now until the replacement plaques are in place. The Council are replacing everyone’s which is wonderful.”

The council has confirmed replacement plaques can be arranged at no charge for those affected.

A spokesman for Castle Point Council said: “The council regrets any distress caused by the behaviour of certain mindless individuals who have vandalised memorial plaques in the Memorial Garden at Woodside Cemetery Benfleet.

“Unfortunately, we had a number of plaques removed from the Memorial Garden at Woodside Cemetery.

“If relatives note their plaque is missing, they can liaise with our staff onsite and they will look to see if their plaque is in amongst those that were found, if not the relative can contact the council and we will arrange for a replacement plaque to be produced at no charge.”