Carlisle mum speaks of anger after daughter's memorial vandalised

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Danielle De Quincey
Danielle De Quincey

A mum who lost her daughter aged four has spoken of her anger after a memorial to the tragic youngster was targeted by park vandals in a spate of attacks.

Elaine Neaves' youngest daughter, Danielle Jay de Quincey, died in 1994 just 10 days before her fifth birthday.

She fell at the Currock Villa Youth Club, which left her with fatal head injuries, but she was not taken to hospital as no one realised how serious her injuries were.

The next morning when Elaine went to wake her up, Danielle was dead. She would have celebrated her 28th birthday this year.

In Danielle's memory the family planted a tree in Hammond's Pond, Upperby, which blossoms in November - the month Danielle both was born and died.

Elaine often went to the park when she was growing up and used to take Danielle there.

A plaque was set up in front of of the tree which said: "Dedicated to Danielle De Quincey. 14-11-89 to 4-11-89. May your pillow be as soft as my heart."

The tree has grown steadily beside the plaque and neither have been disturbed for the past 23 years until it was kicked off.

It came during a spate of vandal attacks at the park which have seen attacks on wildlife, benches and attractions. Police have labelled it "unacceptable".

Elaine said she was not going to replace the plaque, adding of the tragedy: "It hurts even after all this time."

Elaine's oldest daughter Gemma found out about the damaged plaque from a friend and was worried about telling her mum.

Elaine said: "I felt a bit angry at first then my daughter said she was going to try and sort it herself and then I was upset.

"I am angry with them but I just want to look at them and say do you know what you've done?

"I want to know who has done it just even to face them and say why did you do that? What did you get out of that?"

Elaine, who lives in Carlisle, used to visit the tree a lot and every year she would put a rose by its side. She was surprised by how many people have noticed the plaque is missing as they obviously still look out for it.

"It's has been there all that time," she said. "I think it has happened because all the people that Danielle went to school with, they respected it, but now after all this time it's the next generation and they obviously don't care."

Elaine reported the incident to Cumbria police, which has had a string of reports of damage at Hammond's Pond since Saturday, April 1.

These acts of vandalism include attacking wildlife, throwing duck eggs and damaging facilities. The latest incidents involved a buzzard which suffered brain damage and was blinded in one eye and a bench which was destroyed by fire.

The Carlisle and District Model Engineering Society, which has a miniature railway in the park, has also been targeted by vandals since its collaboration with Story Homes and Story Contracting saw the creation of new carriages, renovation works to the plinth and railway and re-cladding of the club building in April.

The club building was a particular target as a fire was started next to it, the guttering was pulled down, graffiti was painted on it, holes were drilled in its walls and duck eggs thrown and smashed all over it.

Elaine cannot understand the mindless vandalism and does not want the yobs causing the destruction to get away with it.

She said: "They have got a beautiful place. You want it to be nice where you live. You want to take pride in it."

Sergeant Steve Greenway, of Cumbria police, said: “This mindless vandalism is unacceptable, it negatively impacts the whole community and it will not be tolerated.

"Vandalism of a memorial plaque is especially concerning as it is a place where friends and family go to pay their respects.

"We will not allow the actions of a few to cause upset to many.

“We are following lines of enquiry, including CCTV footage, to find those responsible and reassure those who have been affected by it.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to appeal to anyone with information to come forward either in person, via 101, or CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

"Any information, no matter how insignificant you believe it to be, could assist the investigation.”

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