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Out-of-control car smashes through gravestones at village church

PUBLISHED: 12:08 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:03 12 September 2019

Revd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Revd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Neil Didsbury

A vicar has spoken about the 'catastrophic' damage left by a vehicle crashing through a country churchyard, and how he came to forgive the driver.

The trail leading to the grave on the left, where the car stopped. Its remains are placed on the tomb behind it. PICTURE: Matthew FarmerThe trail leading to the grave on the left, where the car stopped. Its remains are placed on the tomb behind it. PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

A saloon car destroyed headstones and a thick wall at St Nicholas' Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, when it left the road on the evening of August 24. Nearby residents phoned 999 after hearing the car crash with a loud bang.

Reverend Robin Stapleford, from Colkirk, oversees the church and was told of the damage the next morning. He said: "It's almost beyond belief the driver made it out. The police told me they had never seen a crash this serious where the person had lived."

Revd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil DidsburyRevd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Police said a man was arrested in connection with the incident, and an investigation is ongoing. The collision also destroyed a parish information sign and bench.

Reverend Stapleford said: "Like a few people, I was initially angry, because this damage is catastrophic. There are eight active churches in my group, and sometimes you get bumps and grazes as many are by the roadside, but this is a different scale.

Headstones damaged at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and into the Churchyard. Picture: Neil DidsburyHeadstones damaged at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and into the Churchyard. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"The anger soon diminished, because the driver contacted me online to offer an apology. I don't think he was told to, and it offered me some perspective and understanding.

"As a reverend, I reflect on things, and I think this is a case of bringing one's own brokenness to the church. This is life. Bad things happen and you deal with them.

Headstones damaged at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and into the Churchyard. Picture: Neil DidsburyHeadstones damaged at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and into the Churchyard. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"Among community, it caused a lot of upset and distress, before people accepted these things happen. A few villagers helped clear the mess, including a young boy of 13, which was quite touching."

A harvest service will be held on September 15, and the reverend said: "It will include themes of healing, rebuilding, and in one sense, praying for the driver. He has been through his own trauma, and it has to be acknowledged."

St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil DidsburySt Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The damaged graves included one laid in 1992, still tended by the deceased's relatives, which had to be reconstructed from fragments found around the graveyard. A sign at the entrance warns visitors of the risk in pieces of car and flint which still litter the area.

Repairs to the Grade II* listed wall will use the original stone, but will cost thousands, and there is no certain future for the Victorian gravestones which were demolished.

Revd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil DidsburyRevd. Robin Stapleford at St Nicholas Church in Shereford, near Fakenham, where a vehicle crashed through the Church wall and damaged several headstones. Picture: Neil Didsbury

The notice warning of debris, at the gates of St Nicholas', Shereford PICTURE: Matthew FarmerThe notice warning of debris, at the gates of St Nicholas', Shereford PICTURE: Matthew Farmer

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