‘Distressing hate crime’ – UK Jewish cemetery vandalism suspect arrested

British police arrest local man, 41, believed to have smashed headstones at Jewish cemetery.

By World Israel News Staff

British police arrested a 41-year-old man who is believed to have smashed gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the UK around two weeks ago, and the suspect will likely face hate crime charges.

The Kent cemetery is located on the grounds of the Chatham Memorial Synagogue on High Street in Rochester.

Damage caused by the vandal was estimated at £19,000 ($24,000.)

Photos circulating on social media showed that gravestones had been broken and toppled over. Chunks of the gravestones could be strewn about the site.

“This type of crime is thankfully very rare, but has understandably caused a great deal of distress in the local community,” said Supt. Nick Sparkes of the Kent Police in a media statement.

“We have spoken to those responsible for the cemetery and will continue to offer advice about crime prevention measures.”

Dr. Dalia Halpern-Matthews, who is a member of the synagogue’s Board of Trustees, told local outlet PA News that the incident marked the fifth time the community had been targeted by vandals in the last 10 years.

Halpern-Matthews said that she and other community members felt “disbelief, horror, disgust” about the incident.

“You would like to think people have respect for other religions and for the dead, and for heritage,” she told PA News.

“It’s a particularly significant cemetery, it’s the only one attached to a synagogue in this country.”

She said that the synagogue plans to upgrade its security systems, including reinforcing its fencing and adding additional CCTV cameras.

In 2019, Halpern-Matthews spoke to the Daily Mail following a previous incident at the cemetery, in which four headstones were smashed.

“It’s difficult to describe the sense of horror at the disrespect and needless violence,” she said.

“The gate they ripped off was bolted to the wall. It was already open. It was damage for damage’s sake,” she added.