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Vandalised cemetery so degraded that decomposing limb seen sticking out of grave

A once respected and well-kept cemetery in South London has been targeted by vandals and left in a degraded state.

Recent photos showed a crypt on the grounds saturated in pigeon droppings with the covering left open so that the limb of a dead body stuck out.

The cemetery in West Norwood is home to Grade II listed monuments in a Hellenic Necropolis that were built to remember the capital's Greek community in the 19th-century.

However after years of neglect and recent acts of vandalism, the cemetery has been left in a worrying state, reports The Mirror.

According to Dr Victoria Solomonidis-Hunter at University College London the cemetery is home to a 19th century octagonal Vagliano mausoleum, which is based on the ancient Tower of the Winds in Athens, erected around 100-50BC.

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

In March the monument was vandalised with the hardboard covering, which had already replaced a stolen door, was damaged and broken, leaving the two caskets exposed.

“One of them was open, through decay, with a limb protruding,” Dr Solomonidis-Hunter told The Guardian.

Lambeth Council which has owned the cemetery for more than 50 years ago recently removed security as a cost saving measure but there are urgent calls to protect the monuments.

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Prof Bob Flanagan, an academic at London University and chairman of the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery (FoWNC), spoke to The Guardian and described the cemetery's treatment as "disrespectful and shocking".

“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.”

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 spokesperson for Lambeth Council said: “West Norwood Cemetery is a historic and valued asset and the council has invested heavily in maintaining and improving it for the benefit of the whole of the borough.

"We are embarking next month on a multimillion-pound restoration project, which will include significant investment in the Hellenic enclosure.”

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