Cemetery vandalised so badly that decomposing limb is left sticking out of grave

A beautiful cemetery has been vandalised so badly that one crypt covered in pigeon droppings was left open with the limb of a dead body sticking out.

West Norwood cemetery in South London houses Grade II listed monuments in a Hellenic Necropolis erected in memory of leading members of the capital’s Greek community in the 19th-century.

But years of neglect, acts of vandalism, and the tender mercies of London pigeons have left the cemetery in a dire state.

Dr Victoria Solomonidis-Hunter at University College London said one of the most beautiful monuments is the 19th century octagonal Vagliano mausoleum, which is based on the ancient Tower of the Winds in Athens, erected around 100-50BC.

She said: “It is in a bad need of restoration. Pigeon droppings inside are 70cm high.”

The monument was vandalised in March, with the hardboard covering – replacing an already stolen door – being broken and leaving its two caskets exposed.

“One of them was open, through decay, with a limb protruding,” she said.

Work to improve the 40-acre cemetery is on the cards with a £4.6 million National Lottery Heritage fund grant and £2.1 miliion from Lambeth Council and Friends of West Norwood Cemetery.

But the Vagliano monument is not covered by this work and would cost around £60,000 to repair.

A Lambeth Council spokesperson said: “We are embarking next month on a multimillion-pound restoration project, which will include significant investment in the Hellenic enclosure.”

Prof Bob Flanagan, an academic at London University and chairman of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery, decried the state of the cemetery. “It’s disrespectful and shocking,” he said.

“It’s also a health and safety hazard for people walking round the cemetery. In some instances, coffins are exposed and there might be accidents with people falling into decayed vaults.”