Cemeteries throughout Neath Port Talbot have had headstones of lost loved ones transformed into what families are describing as "straight out of a horror film".

The work is down to new health and safety legislation around memorial inspection regimes being undertaken by authorities across Wales, after several deaths caused from collapsing headstones.

However, families of lost loved ones have criticised what they claim is poor communication from the council, and questioned the safety checks, with some describing it as "vandalism".

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With large wooden pegs appearing behind the memorial stones across several burying grounds in the area, families have been left "distraught" and "distressed". But Neath Port Talbot Council has deemed the work necessary to meet health and safety legislation.

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Kerry Morgan, of Briton Ferry, said he was "devastated" when he received a phone call from a friend, advising him to visit his daughter's grave at Llantwit Cemetery, Neath.

The 64-year-old had been unable to visit his beloved daughter's grave for more than 20 years after she was killed.

Sian Morgan was just 18 when she died, leaving behind a family who are still mourning her loss to this day. She also left a three-week-year old baby, Catrin, who now lives with her grandparents.

Upon visiting her grave, Kerry Morgan said he was "horrified" to discover her headstone had been removed and placed on nearby grass in what he initially believed was vandalism.

"I've never been able to visit her grave, for obvious reasons, it was just too upsetting. When I had a phone call about it, I just had to see for myself, I had no choice"

Sian Morgan's headstone, lying on its side
Her dad Kerry Morgan was 'devastated' at the site

Having contacted the cemetery, it emerged that it was Neath Port Talbot Council which had carried out the work on "safety grounds".

Kerry enquired why neither he nor his family were contacted regarding the headstone, to which he was told they had sent a letter to his previous home address.

Having not lived at the location for more than 20 years, he argued that there had been "poor communication" from the council that had caused "major upset" to his family.

"I have rented out houses for 30 years and deal with the council on a daily basis, it doesn't make any sense. To do something so drastic without notifying us, there is no excuse for it," he said.

"It's devastating for our whole family and we're not the only ones affected by it, other families have also been left in the same situation."

The work done to Sian Morgan's headstone, and many others in the area, is said to be down to new legislation brought in by the UK government following the deaths of six people due to unsafe graves.

Ynysmaerdy Cemetery in Neath where dozens of wooden pegs have also appeared behind headstones considered a health hazard

A spokesperson for Neath Port Talbot Council said: "Councils across Wales and the rest of the UK, in line with health and safety legislation, have introduced memorial inspection regimes following the deaths of six people due to unsafe graves.

"The deaths included that of eight-year-old Ciaran Williamson - crushed by a 7ft gravestone in Glasgow - with a fatal accident inquiry ruling his death could have been avoided if a regime of safety checks had been in place.

"Unsafe memorials may have warning notices attached to them, be cordoned, supported by stakes, or laid flat on the ground. We accept these temporary measures can look unsightly but we are going through the process of contacting families to address the safety issues."

However, Kerry and his family claimed that the work being done was not appropriate and that families were being left in the dark.

"We're having to hire a stonemason to repair the damage but they highlighted to us that the safety work being done should be done by structural engineers with a gravestone licence. What we believe is happening and what we have heard is that council workers are just going around shaking gravestones to see if they come loose, it's ridiculous"

"People in the community are concerned by the sight of what's happening and many are disputing it with the council, we just want nobody else to have the distress that's been caused to our family."

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