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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
Hundreds of graves desecrated
Desecrated grave
Graves were pushed over and damaged

An attack on hundreds of graves at a Jewish cemetery in east London has been condemned as "odious".

Police discovered 386 graves had been pushed over or otherwise damaged at the Plashet Cemetery in East Ham on Thursday.

President of the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism Lord Greville Janner described the attack as "a disgraceful and odious outrage".

It is initially being treated as a racially-motivated crime, although Scotland Yard says there was nothing to suggest "an organised or systematic use of anti-Semitism".

A spokesman added: "There was no evidence of any disturbance to the graves themselves and there was no evidence of any graffiti daubed."

No-one has yet been arrested and police are keeping an open mind about the attack.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain said: "It is desperately hurtful for the families affected, but also a sad reflection on a small group of people who can only express themselves through acts that even five-year-olds know are wrong."

He added attacks happen periodically against both Jewish and Christian cemeteries.

"It is very hard to know whether it is mindless vandalism or specifically anti-Semitic," he said.

Numerous desecrations

"The only thing you can say for sure is it reflects their lack of intelligence."

The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, recorded 89 between January and March - a 75% rise on the previous year.

Mike Whine, director of communications for the trust, said: "The massive desecration of Plashet cemetery is unprecedented in its scale.

"Although there have been numerous cemetery desecrations in previous years, none of these incidents have involved the damaging of so many headstones."

Khadim Hussain, 58, whose home overlooks the cemetery, said four teenagers, were seen leaping over the wall on Wednesday evening.

He added youths were often seen inside the cemetery and would jump over his garden wall.


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