Vandals try to destroy bench made in memory of two young Milton Keynes men killed in M1 crash
A bench made in loving memory of two young Milton Keynes men killed in a motorway crash has been deliberately trashed by vandals.
In a pre-planned attack over three different nights, the wooden bench has been set alight twice and then gouged with knives.
The cruel vandalism has caused an outcry in Newport Pagnell, where many people still remember the tragedy that killed 23-year-old Nathan Reeves and his colleague Tom Aldridge, who was 19.
The two former Ousedale students were travelling home from a friend's birthday party in London on Valentine's night in 2015 when the accident happened.
Sensibly, because they were drinking, they decided not to drive and arranged a lift home. Their driver pulled up on the hard shoulder between junctions 12 and 13 because an oil warning light came on in the car. Despite him displaying hazard warning lights, a double decker coach ploughed into them.
Nathan, Tom and their driver were tragically killed instantly.
The coach driver was later jailed for seven years, but in the meantime businesses in Newport Pagnell rallied round to collect money for a specially-carved memorial bench to be built as a tribute to the two young men.
It stands in Bury Field, which is ancient common land that is owned by everybody who lives in the town.
There is a plaque on the back of the bench describing the tragic accident and then individual plaques dedicated to Nathan and Tom.
Nathan's plaque is engraved with the words: "It's been a long day without you, my friend. And I'll tell you all about it when I see you again."
“The bench means so much to us,” said Nathan's sister Joanne Edwards.
“My mum, myself and my children visit it most days. We'll go there in the evening and just sit and remember Nathan. It's such a beautiful spot and it's where I feel closest to my brother.”
In the past there has been evidence of small fires lit around the bench, and Nathan's family regularly clear up litter that has been left.
“We don't mind that so much. It's nice that people, particularly young people can enjoy Nathan and Tom's bench. We just never expected anyone to ruin it.”
On Friday night vandals took a pile of newspapers to Bury Field, laid them on the seat of the bench and set fire to them.
The following night a chunk was gouged out of the back of the wood, and on Sunday night another deliberate fire was started.
“It was three attacks in three nights. Every time we went back there was more damage. I can't tell you how distressing it is,” said Joanne.
The vandalism caused fury on the town's Facebook page, with dozens of people expressing sympathy to the families.
But Joanne and her mum Lynn Reeves, who runs the Rose and Crown pub in Newport Pagnell, are so scared the bench will be attacked again that they are considering moving it away from Bury Field and into a private garden.
“It is such a shame. It was a bench for a whole town to remember these two young men who were part of that town,” said Joanne.