A family has been left ‘devastated’ and ‘sickened’ after their relatives’ gravestone was stolen.

Laura Swift and her family were astounded to receive a call telling them the headstone on her grandparents’ grave at St Mary’s Church, Netherbury, had been removed.

They went to the churchyard to search the surrounding area for the memorial to Fred and Joan Holland - Mr Holland being a former priest at the church - but could not find it.

Laura said: “Going up to the churchyard and seeing where the memorial was, now just a hole where it has been dug up was deeply upsetting for our whole family. Our grandparents, Fred and Joan Holland, were the kindest, most loved people - Fred himself was a priest at that church - and for someone to have done this to their memory is devastating.

“It is so upsetting for the whole family; words cannot express the sickening feeling standing at what should be a place of fond memories and reflection.

“We cannot understand why someone would do such a thing and what they hope to gain from it. What kind of person digs up somebody’s grave?”

“It is such a pointless act and we hope the person responsible reads this, will search their conscience and return the stone to the churchyard so that their memorial may be restored.”

Dorset Police received a call just before 4pm on Tuesday, July 21 reporting the theft. So far no arrests have been made in connection with the incident.

The family are asking anyone with information to come forward and report it to the police.

Laura added: “If anyone saw any suspicious vehicles or people near Netherbury church over the weekend, please, please contact Dorset Police quoting incident number 21-337 so we can find the person who did this.”