A FAMILY claim precious ornaments placed by the graves of their loved ones were destroyed by council workers.

Steve Smith, 40, of Gardner Avenue, Corringham, went to tend his grandfather’s grave just to find the ornaments had been smashed.

Special momentos and fresh flowers around his sister-in-law’s grave had also been broken. The council has apologised, but said windy weather may have been to blame.

Mr Smith’s sister-in-law Kelly Rudge was just 15 when she died in an accident on the A13 in 1991. Mr Smith’s grandfather Charles Smith, died in 1985, aged 53.

Mr Smith claimed council workers had gone into the cemetary in Wharf Road with strimmers to cut the grass, but carried out the work in a reckless fashion.

He said: “We went down to the graveyard to make sure it was all tidy and found all the ornaments around both graves broken.

“The council’s maintenance teams are going in there and aren’t taking any care.”

Lee Rudge, Kelly’s brother, of Southend Road, Stanford-le-Hope, added: “They had not only cut the grass but slashed the watering can and all of the ornaments and trees that my family have left in memory of my sister.

“My mother searched around and found pieces of sentimental items flung far and wide. My parents tend the grave really well so I fail to see why their maintenance was so brutal.”

A council spokesman said: “The council apologises for any distress that may have been caused to families who visit loved one’s graves and will remind staff to ensure extra care is taken when strimming around graves.

“However, the recent wet and windy weather has made these areas more difficult to maintain and it is possible the wind can blow over decorations and ornaments that are not secured.”

“The council recognises people do like to place mementos on graves, but if they are not kept within the allotted area it can cause difficulties carrying out maintenance.”