A WIGAN man who wished to honour his dead friend has found himself at the centre of a criminal damage row.
When 92-year-old Tommy Woodward, a former war veteran, died earlier this year following a car crash, Ray Davies made a vow that he would put up a plaque in the Stubshaw Cross heritage garden to mark his efforts at Dunkirk.
When he approached members of Stubshaw Cross Residents’ Group to seek support, he was told the site was a heritage garden and was not to be used as a war memorial.
But determined not to let Mr Woodward down, Mr Davies, 74, of Stubshaw Cross, organised for the plaque to be installed on the cross.
However, he was shocked to discover the police had been informed and he could face a criminal damage charge.
He said: “When Tommy was invited to open the heritage garden two years ago, he made a wish for a plaque to be put up in honour of his time at Dunkirk in the Second World War.
“He noted that a plaque dedicated to William Kenealy VC has been placed in the garden and he felt he deserved one too.
“I have fulfilled my promise to Tommy, but now it has been removed.
“I want to know why it is a criminal offence to honour my friend.”
A spokesman for Stubshaw Cross Residents’ Group said the garden was intended to be a heritage site and not for memorial purposes.
Ken Barston, chairman of the group, said: “Mr Woodward was a much loved and well respected member of the community and he was proud of the contribution he made to opening the garden.
“We have a 25-year lease on the site and we are permitted to use it as a heritage garden for the public and we have organised a number of activities to recognise that.
“We have a duty under that lease to maintain the garden and not have it littered with plaques, as the intended purpose is to make people aware of their heritage.
“We have told Mr Davies that it was always intended to be a heritage garden and was never meant to be a memorial site.
“It is not a memorial for the dead – the cross is symbolic of where Stubshaw Cross lies.”
Mr Davies added he has minutes from a management committee meeting of the residents’ group in 2008 which states the permitted use of the site was for a “memorial garden”.
He also states that, while the planning application for the land refers to a heritage garden, it did include a “memorial statue”.
PC Graeme Pendlebury, of the Hindley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “We received a report of criminal damage to the heritage cross which we are duty bound to investigate.
“We confiscated the plaque, which appears to have caused some minor damage to the cross and are investigating.
“However, this is essentially a dispute between two well-meaning parties and we have been speaking to both parties involved about how this can be resolved amicably.
“The plaque will be returned to the owner.”