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Last Updated: Monday, 26 April, 2004, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Ancient tombstones stolen
The path leading to St Catwgs Church in Gelligaer
Gwent police are investigating the church theft
Police are investigating after more than 70 tomb stones were stolen from a church in south Wales.

The "irreplaceable" 3ft square stones - many dating back to Roman times - formed the path leading to St Catwgs Church in Gelligaer, near Caerphilly.

They weighed several tonnes and were taken during Easter week and on Sunday night.

People in the village, which was once the site of a Roman military station, described the theft as shocking.

Reverend David Waters said he thought the trend for garden makeover programmes on television may have led to a demand for such high quality stone, some of which were worth 300.

"They are tombstones dating back to Roman times," said Mr Waters.
They are irreplaceable - there is no way we could match those stones
Reverend David Waters

"I feel very sad that the graves should be desecrated in this way.

"They are irreplaceable - there is no way we could match those stones," he added.

One church service had to be cancelled on Monday after a storm turned the uncovered pathway into mud.

Meanwhile a concrete alternative is being installed to replace the stones.

"I have two weddings on May 8 and I am sure that when the brides-to-be realise what has happened they will be heartbroken," said Mr Waters.

"I want to reassure them they will have their weddings, and there will be a path for them."

He said he hoped whoever had stolen them would have "a pang of conscience" and replace them or inform him where they could be found.

The village had hoped to raise half a million pounds to restore the church and the incident has been described as a major set back.

Gwent Police are investigating the theft.

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