Doncaster dad's sorrow over thieves stealing keepsakes from beloved son Bradley's military grave

A Doncaster dad is calling on the council to take action against thieves and vandals disrespecting his son’s grave.

Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 2:09 pm

Bradley Parks, who served in 26 Engineer Regiment, tragically took his own life in 2019. He was 21.

Since his death, his parents, John and Rachel, have worked hard to raise funds for mental health support for the armed forces.

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The parents of Bradley Parks have asked for Doncaster Council to take action over multiple thefts and acts of vandalism at their con's grave in Rose Hill Cemetery.

But now, the Balby parents say their son’s grave and others in Rose Hill Cemetery, Cantley, are being continually disrespected and vandalised.

Since Bradley’s death, the couple have had to bear the anger of seeing keepsakes stolen from his plot, while decorations and flowers are torn up.

John said: “It’s infuriating. I don’t know why, but who can just walk on a grave and take stuff from it.

“Stuff is taken all the time. It’s disgraceful.”

Bradley Parks served in 26 Engineer Regiment, part of the Royal Engineers, based in Tidworth.

John says the thefts began the very day of Bradley’s funeral, when a bottle of whiskey was left on his headstone by a friend and was taken by the next morning.

A plaque left by Bradley’s niece was stolen earlier this year.

Most mysterious of all was when a light up glass poppy that was planted before Remembrance Day in November 2021 was taken, only for it to be returned five months later – before it was, again, stolen earlier this week.

John said: “I don’t know if it’s kids or down-and-outs, or if it’s just the council clearing it away so they can cut the grass or something.

“I don’t know if his grave attracts more attention because it’s a military grave. It’s stark and cream coloured compared to others. But I know other people are being affected too.

“I’ve called the council every time something has happened.

“There’s a sign on the entrance on Ascot Lane saying ‘gates close at 6pm’ – there aren’t any gates on that entrance. Anyone can walk in after dark if they want to.”

Doncaster Council was contacted for a comment on what would be done to address vandalism in Rose Hill Cemetery, and if there would be any reason for groundskeepers to remove items.

Doncaster Council’s head of trading services, Drew Oxley, said: “We sympathise with anybody whose items go missing from a loved one’s grave. We know this is deeply upsetting and we take any reports of theft seriously. Fortunately this rarely happens, and we are not aware of a recent increase in incidents.

“We will monitor the situation and encourage anyone with concerns about Rose Hill to report them to the Bereavement Office at Rose Hill on 01302 736999.

“During regular maintenance we would not remove and then replace items at a later date. However Items left on graves have to be in line with what is permissible for safety reasons and are left at the owners risk.”

Since Bradley’s death, John and Rachel have raised over £3,000 for the armed forces charity SSAFA while raising awareness for mental health.

Bradley served in 26 Engineer Regiment, part of the Royal Engineers, based in Tidworth and was diagnosed with having bipolar disorder in April 2019, just three months before he took his life.