ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour and ‘disgraceful vandalism’ caused families to be turned away from Middlewich Cemetery and prompted a subsequent police investigation, it has been revealed.

It comes as the Guardian was informed by a heartbroken daughter that she was refused access to the cemetery to visit her late mum’s grave on Christmas Day.

Sam Preston was shocked to discover the cemetery was closing when she turned up at lunchtime to lay flowers.

Drunken yobs partying and drinking around the graves earlier in the day caused staff to make the unprecedented decision to shut the gates early.

"We always go as a family to pay our respects to mum," said Sam, from Middlewich. "There was no sign to say it was shutting early. It was only 1pm and the cemetery doesn't usually close until 4pm.

"To be refused access like that was heartbreaking."

Sam said she was refused permission to go into the cemetery by a woman standing at the gate.

The cemetery has accused Sam of abusing a volunteer, an allegation she strongly denies.

"She said she had to close early and wouldn't let me in," said Sam. "I kept asking if I could go in and she refused. It was her attitude and total disrespect that upset me. We were all disgusted.

"It means so much to visit a loved one on Christmas Day."

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Sam came to the cemetery to lay a wreath and holly pot with partner Richard Millward, son Ashton, brother Barry Preston and nephew Max.

Winsford Guardian: Tina PrestonTina Preston

Tina Preston who died two years ago

Sam's mum Tina was 56 when she died two years ago.

"Mum was a dinner lady at Middlewich Primary School and worked at Morrisons distribution centre in Northwich for many years," said Sam. "She was a lovely person.

"A few other people turned up to put flowers on graves and they were not allowed in either."

A spokesman for Middlewich Cemetery Board said: “We are aware of incidents that took place in Middlewich Cemetery over the Christmas and New Year period.

"Instances of people drinking, partying, playing music, letting fireworks off, being sick, leaving litter, bottles and a disgusting mess behind them.

"It was disgraceful vandalism and a violation of the peace, tranquility and respect that is expected in such a sensitive place where people got to pay respects to those they’ve lost.

"On Christmas Day a difficult decision was taken to close the new side of the cemetery early. The old side remained open until 5pm.

"A volunteer came under abuse and was threatened. That will not be tolerated. We have a duty of care to anyone working at or under the control of the cemetery.

"The incident is in the hands of the police and we await the outcome of their investigations."

Cheshire police confirmed that they were called to reports that a woman had been verbally abused while closing the cemetery on Christmas Day.

A police spokesman said: "The caller reported that they had been verbally abused following other incidents of anti social behaviour.

"The victim did not sustain any injuries as a result of the incident although she was left shaken. No arrests have been made."