Vandals target soldier's memorial bench

By Laura Maltby Thursday 10 January 2013 Updated: 16/01 09:02

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Buy photos » Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. (s)

THE MOTHER of a soldier killed in Afghanistan has described vandalism to her son's memorial bench as “gut wrenching”.

The wooden bench in memory of Lance Corporal Paul Muirhead, who was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2006, was taken from outside the Snitterfield Arms on Friday night (January 4).

It was carried through the village, damaged and then dumped.

Mr Muirhead's mother Violet spoke out about the attack on television, saying: “It really felt as if they might as well have jumped on top of his grave.

“I know it sounds dramatic but it is really gut wrenching to think someone could do it. It is just as if someone has said 'he doesn't matter any more'.”

The bench, which his friends had originally raised money to pay for, had been chained to the floor but was forced free.

It was recovered by family friend Fiona Booth on Sunday after being spotted dumped behind a garage.

She expressed her disbelief that "anyone that could damage something that meant so much to people and that was dedicated in his memory", adding: "the damage done is just sacrilege."

Lance Corporal Muirhead, of 1 Royal Irish Regiment, was 28 when he died from wounds sustained during a Taliban attack on his base at Musa Quala in Helmand Province on September 1 2006.

His commanding officer described him as a “calm confident and determined and widely respected” soldier who had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And on the same night, arsonists caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to the nearby pavillion at Snitterfield Cricket Club.

Firefighters were called to the Wolverton Road club around 10pm to deal with a fire started in the home changing room.

Lee Hillier, chairman of Snitterfield Cricket Club, said: “The whole lot could have burnt down but as it is, there was only severe smoke damage.

“We think it was done for a cheap thrill as whoever did it didn't steal any of our equipment.

Mr Hillier was a founding member of the club ten years ago and helped raise funds to transform the original pavillion from a desolate building to one which now is home to junior and adult cricket and football teams.

The building is owned by the parish council who will be filing an insurance claim. But the insurance only covers the building, meaning the club will be forced to pick up the bill for the damaged contents which include bats, helmets and other training equipment.

He added: “We took the building on originally and were able to do it up thanks to support from local businesses but now we're back to square one again - unfortunately we're a very small club and we're on a shoestring budget.

“Although it may not affect the cricket season as that doesn't start until April, it's early days and we have to find a temporary solution which means the football club could potentially have to move until the situation is resolved.

“We're all devastated because the culprit has probably done it in the heat of the moment for a small kick but for both our clubs the consequences and damage will be much longer lasting."

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Buy photos» The memorial bench attacked by vandals. (s)

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Buy photos» Paul Muirhead's mother Violet described the damage done to her son's memorial bench as “gut wrenching”. (s)

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Buy photos» Snitterfiled Cricket Club Chairman Lee Hillier next to the small window where the arsonists broke in. 02.012.020.jm2

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Buy photos» Fire damage inside the pavillion. 02.012.020.jm1

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