GRIEVING families today blasted council officials for "desecrating" a village cemetery.
Many were reduced to tears after finding headstones taken up and laid flat in Kirkheaton Cemetery.
And despite Kirklees Council officials insisting it was a safety measure, many bereaved relatives have asked: Why was it done?
It was the second time in recent weeks that Kirklees staff have removed headstones from the cemetery, laying them flat.
But many of the stones now removed by council workers are modern ones, fitted only in the last few years and standing only two feet tall.
Older, larger and more ornate memorials - many of them leaning over - have been left untouched.
And many of the relatives who have complained about the action said they knew nothing about the plans until they visited the cemetery.
Letters have gone out but were posted after the gravestones were moved.
And the families claim they have been told they must foot the bill for replacing and securing the headstones.
Mrs Patricia Smith, of Fixby, said: "I returned from holiday at the weekend and went to put flowers on my husband's grave.
"Michael died only four years ago and I was devastated to see his headstone laid flat on the ground.
"I just could not believe it. There are dozens of stones laid like that. How could they do this?
"Bereaved people can do without this grief.
"It was only yesterday that I got a letter from the council telling me it was for safety reasons."
Mrs Georgina Hall was stunned to see her father-in-law's headstone had been moved.
"I had gone with my father Graham to lay flowers on several graves, including my mother's, and was stunned to see what they had done.
"I phoned Kirklees Council and was told it was part of a safety issue. But no-one told us what they were planning and I know if I had taken my mother-in-law up there to see her husband's grave, she would have been distraught.
"They have shown no respect to our loved ones. That headstone was put up only two years ago and my husband, who is a builder, always checked to make sure it was safe.
"I cannot believe how disgusting it is."
The families have been told in letters from the council they have three months to re-erect the monuments, using masons from an approved list.
If they do not have the work carried out, the headstones will be sunk into the ground.
Mrs Mary Kennedy, of Quarmby, Huddersfield, was in tears when she saw what had happened to the grave of her daughter-in- law, Natalie.
She died in April 2002, aged just 27, leaving a husband Ian and a six-month-old son Samuel.
"Nobody told us what they were planning. It is nothing short of desecration.
"Two years ago they tried to remove any objects from the grave, including toys left by my grandson, which was bad enough, but this is worse."
Other relatives have complained that only headstones in the newer section of the cemetery in Laneside have been moved.
Much larger and old monuments have been left still standing.
Attempts to question Kirklees officials about their actions have proved fruitless.
But a council spokesman did re-issue a statement put out when gravestones were moved some weeks ago.
"We check graves regularly and we are currently doing safety checks across the cemeteries.
"We always go to great lengths to try and find relatives but on occasions we do not have a current address. If gravestones have got to the point where they are dangerous we have to take action in case they fall on someone.
"Anyone whose relatives' gravestones have been flattened should get in touch with us to discuss it."