Vandals force parents to move baby’s grave

Ross Whitby and his partner Ashleigh Fitzearle
Ross Whitby and his partner Ashleigh Fitzearle
A file photo of police

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GRIEVING dad Ross Whitby feels he has no choice but to exhume his baby son after someone stole toys from his grave and stamped on it.

Ross, 26, and partner Ashleigh Fitzearle, also 26, of Beryton Road, in Gosport, were devastated when Chase died in March after being alive for just 45 minutes. He was buried in April.

Chase Whitby's grave at Ann's Hill Cemetery

Chase Whitby's grave at Ann's Hill Cemetery

The pair fear their son’s tiny grave at Ann’s Hill Cemetery is being targeted and want to have him cremated.

Ross said: ‘I don’t feel he’s safe, it’s like he’s being bullied – that’s what it is.

‘It’s grave robbery, which is sick and illegal.

‘I don’t feel the council are doing enough.’

Ross says the council’s contractor has not shut the gates on time – it denies this.

Ross and Ashleigh have found footprints on Chase’s grave, a toy elephant has been snapped off the fence around his grave and last Tuesday a snowman toy was stolen.

‘It makes you feel like you want to dig him up and take him home with you,’ he said.

‘I hate going down there now because I can’t cope with the anger. I know something’s going to be wrong.

‘I have to drop Ashleigh off at the gate and let her go in.

‘It shouldn’t be like that.’

Ross and Ashleigh will have to go through a second funeral – and pay for it.

Ross added: ‘What we’ve gone through this year we’ll have to go through again.’

Ashleigh said she worries what impact the vandalism will have on her children Kelcee, four, and Kai, two.

She added: ‘The only thing I want to do is get him out of there to stop him being a target.

‘I don’t even know what to say when I go down there.

‘I don’t like going down there but I know I have to – I’m the only one who does.’

The pair have not reported the vandalism to the police as they fear nothing can be done.

Gosport Borough Council has investigated with contractor Sodexo. Both say they are shutting the gates when due.

The council received one report of vandalism in April.

Council leader Cllr Mark Hook said mobile CCTV may now be sent to the cemetery.

He said: ‘Our thoughts are with the family. The gates are locked (at night). It’s unfortunate and very sad that some mindless individuals are putting this family through so much torment and grief.’

REMOVING a person from a burial plot is not a straightforward task.

Aside from the huge upset involved, Ross Whitby and Ashleigh Fitzearle must now wait until April for their son Chase to be exhumed.

Stuart Cockroft, of Solent Funeral Services, said the long wait is down to paperwork.

Because Chase has not been buried for a year he would need a cremation certificate, which Mr Cockroft said would be hard to obtain.

He said: ‘Because the child has been interred for eight months, we’d still need a doctor to do cremation papers. After a year when you exhume you can cremate straight away.’

THE vandalism of Chase’s grave has shocked councillors.

It has been raised by Councillor Peter Chegwyn and Cllr Rob Hylands, who are ward members for Leesland and Brockhurst.

Cllr Chegwyn, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, has written to the council asking assurances over security at the cemetery.

The pair are concerned gates are not being locked at night.

Cllr Hylands raised the issue at a council meeting last week, and other councillors also spoke of concerns over graves that had been damaged at the cemetery.

Both the borough council and contractor Sodexo say they have investigated and workers have been closing the gates.

Leader Cllr Mark Hook urged people to report any damage.