GRIEVING parents were left distraught when met with scenes of “vandalism” at the baby memorial garden at Taunton Crematorium.

Family members visiting the garden earlier this week reported finding trinkets and gifts strewn around, flowers gone or tipped out of their pots, and some items cracked or broken.

However, it has since been discovered that this was not an act of vandalism, but a member of staff carrying out maintenance work.

One mother, Rachael Westcott, found out about it through a message on Monday morning.

“Early in the morning, my friend text me to see if I was okay,” said Rachael.

“She said she had seen a post on Facebook about the baby memorial garden being vandalised.

“I jumped up out of bed and said to my partner, come on, we’ve got to go.”

Describing some of the items she saw misplaced and damaged upon arrival, she said: “There was a good sized cherub, I always recognise it because it’s usually right behind my little boy’s plot.

“Wooden crosses that you can obviously tell some little siblings have made for their brother or sister.”

Somerset County Gazette: DAMAGE: The site in disarray after the incident

But there was something about the scene that made her think it wasn’t just mindless vandalism.

Many of the items, for example, were lined up along, or were actually in, the hedgerow. She believed if it has been vandals, everything would have been scatted more randomly.

So when a member of staff passed by, Rachael and her partner decided to investigate what might have happened.

“My partner asked, ‘has the grass been cut here recently’ and the mad said ‘yes, yesterday’.”

The following conversation revealed the objects had been moved while the grass cutting took place and while some attempt had been made to replace some items, most had not been.

Rachael said: “When you turn up thinking it’s been vandalised, but then you find out it’s been done by one of the staff, well I don’t know which is worse.”

However, Rachael believes the actions of the maintenance person were not done with bad intentions.

She said: “I don’t think there was any malice, I just think he was in a rush.

“When I was raging at him, he just stood there and listened. When I came back he had bought two bunches of flowers to put on the memorials.”

Rachael lost her son, Jack, 17 years ago after he was born prematurely.

She said: “When I found out I was pregnant with Jack, you just love them instantly, you plan for their future from the very start. Then to have him taken away in 17 days.

“Jack was born prem, he was 1lb 6oz, in 2004. He would have been 17 this year.”

But Jack has never been forgotten and the family often visit his memorial.

“Regularly we go up to the crematorium. We always mark anniversaries, birthdays. We talk about him all the time,” she said.

Speaking about the treatment of the baby memorials during maintenance of the garden, Councillor Andy Sully, executive member for environmental services, said: “On behalf of Somerset West and Taunton Council, I want to apologise to the families for the distress caused by this unfortunate incident in the Baby Memorial Garden.

“In maintaining the crematorium and cemetery grounds we clearly got it wrong on this occasion and are hoping to work with all concerned to see how we can avoid anything like this happening in the future.

“We will run that alongside the internal investigation to learn from what has happened.

“Once again we apologise for any distress caused.”

Hearing about the incident on social media, the community has rallied round and offers of help have flooded in from individuals and businesses.

Somerset County Gazette: UNITED: Jolie Howe and Rachael Westcott with floral donations from Stems of Taunton and Stoneworx SW

Another mum, Jolie Howe, has set up a Facebook group called Making the Baby Memorial Garden Beautiful Again.

She said: “Stoneworx Southwest have kindly offered to donate £100 worth of flowers which I’m sorting today.

“Just the sheer volume of messages, comments, likes, support in every way possible, it means an amazing amount to everyone.”

Rachael also explained how some of the bereaved parents who had never previously spoken to one another are now making arrangements to meet up.

She added: “That’s the positive that’s come out of all this.”