IT has been a family tradition for nearly three decades.

Christine Honour, Carol Penman and Lesley Garnham have been visiting their brother’s grave on the anniversary of his death for 28 years.

But when they arrived at the cemetery in Southampton yesterday to pay their respects, they were horrified to find his grave buried under a mountain of earth and his flowers thrown to the side. Tyre marks were fresh in the mud and other graves leading to John Garnham’s had been smashed.

The women say they burst into tears when they saw the trail of destruction caused by workers who had dug a new grave next to their brother’s at Millbrook Cemetery.

Christine, 46, a nursery teacher from Upper Brownhill Road, Maybush, said: “I didn’t believe it and I still don’t believe it.

“It’s so disrespectful it’s unbelievable. It looked like a skip had just landed on top of it.”

Christine visited the cemetery with her 19-year-old daughter, Lauren, sisters Carol, 62, an administrator from Cowley Close, Maybush and Lesley Garnham, 49, a pre-school key worker from Lower Brownhill Road, Maybush and family friend Pat Lewis, 74, from Millbrook.

John, a former Pirelli laboratory technician from Millbrook, was just 29 years old when he died in a car crash at Eastleigh on February 3, 1986.

His father, Bill, an electrician, was laid to rest in the same grave in 1991 when he died aged 66 of lung cancer and a brain tumour.

Last year the ashes of John’s mum Doreen and brother Colin were also placed in the same spot after Doreen, a retired book binder, died in October aged 88 and Colin, a car valeter, died of a heart attack in December at 54.

The shock of finding the grave in such a mess was made worse because the sisters heard the results of Colin’s inquest just hours before.

Christine said: “There are ways to do things and this is the wrong way. This is vandalism. “We’ve been through a hell of a lot and then to come down to see this it’s been really hard. We just burst into tears. It’s so raw inside still that we didn’t know what to do.

“You’ve only got to look at the headstone and see it’s the anniversary of his death. It’s not as if it’s not written on there.

“Being your brother, visiting the grave is religious and this is the first year we’ve had to go without our mum and Colin.

“We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know if this is going to be a burial here tomorrow and that the flowers might get thrown somewhere else.”

Millbrook Cemetery, formerly known as Millbrook Parish Council Burial Ground, behind Holy Trinity Church on Millbrook Road West was taken over by Southampton City Council in 1954.”

Last night it was unclear who had dug the new grave.

Southampton City Council leader Simon Letts said: “If council staff are responsible for this then I apologise and I will do my best to make sure everything is returned as it should be as soon as possible.”