STAKES supporting unsafe gravestones in Malvern Cemetery have been taken away.

The stakes and metal bands were installed by Malvern Town Council after it inspected the headstones and found about 1,000 were unsafe.

Town clerk Richard Chapman said he believed that grave owners and not vandals were responsible for removing the stakes.

"We think it's been done deliberately," he said, adding that the stakes had been re-secured and the council had put up notices warning it could not be held liable for the safety of stones where stakes had been removed.

Owners of unsafe graves have until March 31 to get work done or risk the headstones being laid on the ground or removed.

The council has put more than 40 owners in touch with stonemasons who can make graves safe.

Mr Chapman said other owners had evidently contacted stonemasons directly as work had already been completed on some graves.