Dad’s anger after cemetery’s gate damage revealed

GRIEVING Ashleigh Fitzearle and Ross Whitby
GRIEVING Ashleigh Fitzearle and Ross Whitby

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A FATHER has spoken of his upset after it emerged cemetery gates were not locked when his baby son’s grave was targeted by vandals.

Ross Whitby said it was ‘disgusting’ that damage to a gate at Ann’s Hill Cemetery meant it could not be locked.

As reported, Ross and his partner Ashleigh Fitzearle, 26, are planning to exhume their baby son Chase.

It comes after his grave has had toys stolen from it and been stamped on – on around six separate occasions.

But it has now emerged that Sodexo, the council’s contractor, was unable to lock the side gate in the north-eastern corner at the cemetery.

Ross, 26, of Beryton Road, Gosport, said: ‘If they knew it was damaged, it’s not hard to go and get a padlock put on it.

‘It takes 10 minutes to find a padlock rather than leave it and it’s had to go this far to get anything done.

‘It’s a bit disgusting when you think about what’s been going on there.’

An email seen by The News said it was ‘due to the lock being reported as damaged the week of December 2’.

The email, dated December 17, added the problem ‘has since been resolved and (the officer) can confirm that gate locking times are being adhered to’.

As reported earlier this month, Ross and Ashleigh found footprints on Chase’s grave. A toy elephant was snapped off the fence around his grave and on December 3 a snowman toy was stolen.

Cllr Peter Chegwyn raised the issue at council, said: ‘I would hope the council will offer Ross a full apology for failing to provide adequate security.’

Cllr Graham Burgess is chairman of the community board at Gosport Borough Council, which runs the cemetery.

He said there was no way of knowing if the vandals had jumped over wall or walked in through the gate.

Cllr Burgess said: ‘The gates were damaged and the gates have been fixed. We do the best we can to protect it but there’s only so much we can do. I feel for the bereaved.’