Police in Greater Manchester are investigating the desecration of a prayer hall at a Jewish cemetery, which a senior officer described as “an abhorrent act of hate”.
The ohel, or prayer hall, and two other chapels at the cemetery on Old Hall Lane in Whitefield, Bury, were smashed up over the weekend, Greater Manchester police (GMP) said.
A memorial stone inscribed in Hebrew was destroyed, two windows and a number of sinks were smashed and CCTV was stolen from within one of the chapels, police said. The raid took place sometime between midday on Friday and early morning on Saturday.
Police are treating it as a hate crime because of the damaged gravestone but have said it could have been a burglary: metal taps were stripped from the building, suggesting the intruders were looking for scrap metal.
Supt Paul Walker, of GMP’s Bury division, said: “We have launched an investigation and whilst the CCTV has been destroyed by the offenders – clearly in an attempt to cover their tracks – I can assure you that we have a team of dedicated officers working to piece together exactly what happened in an attempt to find those responsible.
“I understand that this incident will have caused distress to many members of our community and we are working alongside our partners including Community Security Trust to ensure that those affected are fully supported.
“We are treating this incident as a hate crime and I want to send a clear message that incidents of this nature will never be tolerated in our communities. I would encourage anyone with any information to get in touch as soon as possible.”
A tweet from the official @GMPPrestwich account, later deleted, said: “I hope the scumbags who desecrated a graveyard in Whitefield are proud! You are a complete disgrace to humanity! This is not what the community of Whitefield are about or accept.”
Mabs Hussain, an assistant chief constable at GMP, tweeted: “This is an abhorrent act of hate which took place in the Jewish cemetery in Whitefield.”
Mark Gardner, the communication director of the Community Safety Trust, which monitors antisemitic attacks, said: “Any attack on a Jewish cemetery will cause pain and offence to the Jewish community, even if it remains to be seen just how much this was motivated by burglary in the first instance rather than antisemitism per se.”