GRAVES have been damaged at a Bolton church only a week after heartless vandals first struck at the site.

Police were sent to St Peter’s Parish Church on Church Road in Halliwell at around 7.30am on Thursday, October 8.

An investigation was subsequently launched.

While police completed house-to-house enquiries and examined CCTV footage, extra officers patrolled the area.

But at 12.35pm on Thursday police received a report that more graves had been damaged since Tuesday.

Overall, 43 graves have been damaged – 22 last week and 21 this week.

A church official said “several thousand pounds worth of damage” have been caused with headstones pushed over and some of them smashed as a result.

A church spokeswoman said: “We cannot underestimate the impact this crime has on the community as well as the family members concerned. “We really need the support of the local people in this matter and the church wardens are asking for the community to remain observant and for anyone who sees any suspicious activity in the graveyard to report this to the police.

“We are now in the process of cataloguing all of this second spate of damage and will, again, attempt where possible to contact family members to make them aware of the damage.” Police have stepped up patrols at the church grounds since the shocking incidents.

Insp David Johnston, of Greater Manchester Police’s Bolton district, said: “I would like to start by sending my condolences to the families and friends affected by these callous crimes.

“The person/ people responsible clearly have no regard for others – I would encourage them to think about how they would feel if the grave belonged to one of their loved ones.

“I am disgusted by what has happened.

“An investigation is underway and I can reassure people that my team will work hard to identify the offenders and ensure they face justice.

“Finally, I would appeal to anyone with information which may assist us with this to contact us or Crimestoppers as soon as possible so that we can prevent any further incidents.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 0161 856 5599 quoting 645 of October 8 or 1,151 of October 15. Alternatively, call the independent charity, Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.