Flowers have been disappearing from gravesides at a Wigan cemetery - and the finger has been pointed at some rather unexpected culprits.
Wildlife including rabbits and deer have been munching their way through the plants left by mourners in Gidlow Cemetery to remember their loved ones, Wigan Council is claiming.
Many families are reporting similar issues which we believe are caused by the local wildlife, specifically rabbits and in some cases deer, which have been witnessed feeding on the floral tributes left in the cemeteryPaul Barton
The matter came to light after the family of popular grandad William Atherton were shocked to find the flowers laid at his funeral service had disappeared a day later and petals were strewn across the soil.
Granddaughter Amy Charnock and other relatives suspected careless workmen were to blame for digging over the area without moving the blooms to one side and demanded an explanation.
However, the local authority has assured the family its employees would not act in such an insensitive way and instead suggested an alternative theory for a spate of similar incidents in local cemeteries.
Paul Barton, Wigan Council assistant director for environmental services, said: “We realise this is a distressing time for Ms Charnock and her family following the death of her grandfather.
“Many families are reporting similar issues which we believe are caused by the local wildlife specifically rabbits and in some cases deer which have been witnessed feeding on the floral tributes left in the cemetery.
“This is a continuing problem across the borough, due to the rural location of many of our cemeteries.
“We want to reassure Ms Charnock that our staff would not intentionally damage any floral tributes left at a grave side and wish to extend our sympathies to the family at this time.”
Despite this Ms Charnock, from Beech Hill, says she is still unhappy about the way the local authority handled the incident and how they were addressed by a supervisor.
Ms Charnock, 29, said: “The funeral directors said the council blamed the rabbits when they spoke to them but why wasn’t that explained to us on the day of the flowers being destroyed and why was the council not interested or sympathetic when we stood devastated at the graveside?”
Mr Atherton, from Worsley Mesnes, was buried on Tuesday in Gidlow Cemetery following his death aged 77.