GRIEVING families are hitting out at plane spotters who turned a cemetery into a "mini festival" and trashed a grave.

Relatives were shocked by the behaviour of crowds of people who descended on Yeadon Cemetery at the weekend to catch a glimpse of a huge military transport aircraft.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Boeing C-17 arrived at Leeds Bradford Airport on Friday for the start of a week-long military exercise - but the attraction led to distress for bereaved families.

A mother who is mourning the loss of her young son described a shocking scene with visitors urinating on headstones, while children rode bikes and played football on graves.

The facebook message from the unnamed mother says: "This is my son. My world. He couldn’t stay with us for long and that kills us all daily. He has a big sister and a big brother who have also had to come to terms with such a terrible loss at such a young age. To find half of Leeds sat in his resting place wasn’t taken very well by his family. It’s the only real thing we have left. I understand that it’s exciting when certain planes come in to land or take off - but please if you you want to go see them then just stay out of the cemetery.

"It was like a mini festival yesterday with kids on bikes, playing football on graves, people peeing by / on headstones."

She adds: "Just please for families like mine learn some respect and teach your little people it too. It’s bad enough we have to pick up dog poo from the cemetery on regular basis. It’s not a youth club or a knocking shop it’s a huge bedroom for our loved ones who couldn’t stay."

Guiseley woman Debbie Gamble, 48, who laid her father to rest at the cemetery in 2010 was left shaking with rage after seeing photographs of the damage caused on Sunday - with lanterns and a unique plaque left smashed on his grave.

Mrs Gamble said: “As a family we are deeply upset. The fact is, kids were seen running around the cemetery. Why let a child bring a bike or a ball to a cemetery – it’s sacred ground.”

She added: “On the day, there was a lady who rushed up to protect her baby’s grave.

“Parents should teach their kids respect."

Paul Ingleson, who has family buried in the cemetery, described the behaviour of plane spotters as "totally disrespectful."

He said: "There were people having picnics and kids running about and climbing over headstones. At one point there was even someone urinating on the back of a headstone.

"People spend so much money on gravestones to remember their loved ones - not as climbing frames for kids. It was just an utter disgrace."

Otley and Yeadon councillor Colin Campbell said: "The arrival of the Canadian C17 was a bit unusual and I appreciate lots of people wanted to see the plane. Most behaved in a responsible manner but a few caused distress to local residents by behaving inappropriately in Yeadon Cemetery. We don't want to stop people having fun but would ask that those who go to look at planes respect the graveyard and the feelings of those who have loved ones buried there."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: "We are aware and very much share the concerns that have been raised regarding the behaviour of some people gathering in Yeadon Cemetery last weekend to watch planes fly into Leeds and Bradford Airport.
"All cemeteries should be a place for respect and quiet reflection, and we are asking people to please not gather in groups and use this cemetery as a vantage point for watching planes. We have made this very clear in  prominent signage erected in the cemetery which requests that people respect these burial grounds and do not disturb those who come to visit their loved ones graves.

“We are now currently investigating what further options are available to us to restrict this type of behaviour occurring in the future, whilst also ensuring that Yeadon cemetery remains open and accessible to those that are visiting the graves of loved ones.”