Widower calls for more respect after rough sleepers pitch up tents in cemetary

A man whose wife is buried in Pontefract Cemetery has said more respect needs to be shown after tents were found pitched at the ground.

Colin Willock is concerned that tents have been put up in Pontefract Cemetery near to his wife's grave. Picture Scott Merrylees
Colin Willock is concerned that tents have been put up in Pontefract Cemetery near to his wife's grave. Picture Scott Merrylees

Colin Willock found the tents towards the bottom of the cemetery and said other people who have loved ones buried there had seen people intoxicated with drugs or alcohol.

He said the level of disrespect that had been shown was “disgusting” and more needed to be done to move the rough sleepers on.

Mr Willock said: “I hear stories from people visiting the cemetery about people dancing round graves either influenced by alcohol or drugs.

People intoxicated with drugs or alcohol have been seen dancing around the cemetary.

“One lady said she used to feel safe visiting the cemetery late in the evening, but because of these undesirables she no longer feels safe. This should never be tolerated in a sacred place like our cemeteries.

“Wakefield Council should be throwing all resources to eliminate and get rid of these vagrants permanently.

“A concentrated, effective program should be brought into play to move these people on and it should be ongoing and checks made regularly.”

He said people had been camped out at the cemetery as recently as Sunday.

Mr Willock said a water tap used for plants in the cemetery had been turned off and wondered if the supply had been stopped to deter the rough sleepers.

But the council said the tap had been turned off so unrelated repairs could be completed and it had nothing to do with the tents being pitched at the site. A leak had been found somewhere on the line and the council were waiting for contractors to complete the work.

The council has arranged for more patrols of the cemetery to be carried out each day as a result of the rough sleepers.

Three patrols a night will now take place in the area the tents have been pitched.

Glynn Humphries, Wakefield Council’s service director for environment and streetscene said: “Not only is camping in the cemetery not permitted but it also irreverent and displays a callous disregard for bereaved families.

“The council will take immediate action to move them on and also investigate why they’ve set up camp there.”

In Wakefeld between January 2017 and December 2017, 231 people were considered be homeless, according to government figures.

The figures suggest there are around seven people sleeping rough each night in the Wakefield district.

A total of 4,751, people were estimated to be sleeping rough on any given night in autumn 2007, according to Homeless Link.

The figure was 15 per cent higher than it had been the previous year and more than double the number that it was in 2010