POLICE have been painstakingly piecing together memorial plaques stolen from graves in an effort to return them to their owners.

The pieces were recovered during a raid on a scrap metal dealer on May 14. About 150 of the plaques taken following the raid were still intact and some have been traced to a Beckenham cemetery.

Officers from Safer Neighbourhood teams believe the cut up pieces of metal could make up about 300 plaques. Around 50 plaques have been reassembled so far.

Sergeant Georges Shannon, who was responsible for organising the raid in Croydon, said: “The theft of metal has an enormous impact on the economy, but when you’re talking about memorial plaques from cemeteries then it also has a huge emotional impact on the victims as well.

“These are memorials to loved-ones who have passed away and their theft only adds to people’s grief.

"That’s why we’re doing all we can to work out where these plaques have come from to hopefully return them and give those affected some peace of mind.”