Vandals use sledgehammer to wreck Preston military veterans' garden

Vandals armed with a sledgehammer have wrecked a community garden cared for by Preston's military veterans.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 5:22 pm

The walled garden within Ashton Park - run by ex-forces support group 'Dig In' - was found trashed this morning (Thursday, June 17) after a frenzied night of vandalism.

It is the third time in just two weeks that the community garden and work hut has been targeted, says Clive Marshall, the group's project officer.

But the 58-year-old army veteran, who served in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, says the latest act of vandalism is "on another level".

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Veteran of the British armed forces, Clive Marshall said: "The guys who give up their time to help with the garden have put their hearts and souls into this place. The lack of respect is galling."

Police were called to the scene and officers recovered a sledgehammer which appears to have been used to shatter windows and break furniture. Clive says vandals also set fire to a doormat and had tampered with the fire extinguisher.

In one shockingly callous act, the vandals damaged tribute plaques in memory of those veterans who have since died and who had volunteered at the Dig In garden.

"Usually we clean up and carry on doing what we do best," said Clive, "but the level of mindless damage this time is on another level.

"The scene that greeted us this morning was just heartbreaking. It's complete destruction. It's frightening to think there are young people in our community who are capable of doing things like this.

It is the third time in two weeks that the Dig In garden and community base in Ashton Park, Preston has been targeted by vandals, says Clive Marshall, the group's project officer

"One of our tribute plaques even says, "Will you remember me?" And they've destroyed it! Where is their respect and compassion?

"Our garden is a place of solace for those who have served their country, where veterans and their families can come together and get involved in community projects, or just enjoy each other's company.

"Some of our members are emotionally attached to the garden. One of our helpers, an 85-year-old woman, asked to spread her husband's ashes here. Because the garden and our little community meant so much to them.

"The guys who give up their time to help with the garden have put their hearts and souls into this place. The lack of respect is galling.

A sledgehammer, recovered from the scene by police, appears to have been used to smash windows and wreck furniture inside a work hut used by the community group in Ashton Park

"It made me think, did I really stand on the frontlines serving my country, only for some young vandals to desecrate the memory of our local veterans like this?"

He said police have visited the site to investigate and have seized the machetes and sledgehammer as evidence.

Clive said: "We have had to close the site and turn our members away today until we can make the place safe, repair the damage and clean up.

"This is the third time in the past two weeks that've we had to do this. I don't know what more damage they can do. It doesn't bear thinking about.

The vandals also set fire to a doormat and had tampered with the fire extinguisher

"We just hope the police can find those responsible before they cause further destruction in our community."

Lancashire Police have been approached for comment.

If you have any information on who might be responsible for the vandalism, you can contact Lancashire Police on 101 quoting log number LC-20210617-0317.

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The community base inside a walled garden within Ashton Park - run by ex-forces support group 'Dig In' - was found trashed this morning (Thursday, June 17) after a frenzied night of vandalism