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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Prayers said at desecrated church
Grave scene
Police are continuing to comb the scene for clues
A Sunday service has gone ahead as usual at a church where animal rights activists have been blamed for digging up the body of an 82-year-old woman.

Rev Jenny Lister said prayers for Gladys Hammond at St Peter's Church in Yoxall, Staffordshire.

The service went on as police officers worked at the scene in an effort to discover who desecrated the grave.

Mrs Hammond's family breed guinea pigs for medical research and have been the target of animal activists' protests.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said the desecration was the latest in a long series of attacks by "so-called animal rights activists" on owners, workers, relatives and friends of people associated with Darley Oaks Farm in nearby Newchurch.

It felt like the heart had been wrenched out of our community
Rev Jenny Lister
Police said they were investigating a possible link to animal rights campaigners.

Ms Lister, who is the vicar of Yoxall, read a statement to the congregation before Holy Communion was held.

She said: "Our hearts go out to Gladys Hammond's family today - we cannot imagine what they must be feeling.

"Our hearts also go out to all who grieve because of the violation of what has, up to now, been a place of peace, of sanctity and rest for all the loved ones whose remains are buried there.

"While the church and burial ground has been cordoned off over these past three days it felt like the heart had been wrenched out of our community. "

Ms Lister, who first reported the matter to police on Thursday, officiated at Mrs Hammond's funeral service seven years ago.

Police officers are continuing to comb the scene for clues.


SEE ALSO:
Police comb desecrated grave site
09 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Protest 'link' to desecrated grave
08 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Villagers targeted in four-year campaign
08 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Activists blamed for firework attack
14 Nov 03  |  Staffordshire
Activists blamed for child sex slur
07 Oct 03  |  Staffordshire


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