A MOTHER said she felt as though her heart had been “ripped apart again” when she discovered that her baby boy’s grave had been “destroyed”.

Joanne Nicholas’ son Simon Lee died of cot death in 1988, aged just three-and-half months.

He was laid to rest in Ramsbottom Cemetery.

His mother was aged 17 at the time and said she "could not afford to have the grave made up professionally" so the family decided to create a "garden" in time for what would have been Simon's 30th birthday — November 16, 2018.

"A good friend found a slab of white marble and friends and family set about making him a matching surround. We were over the moon with the end result."

But Mrs Nicholas claims that, when she went to decorate the grave before Christmas, she found it "in a total mess".

She said: "I was faced with a scene that brought me to my knees in tears.

"All of our hard work had been undone.

"My mum's pot was left on its side, all the artificial flowers were dumped at the back of the grave covered in mud, the front was a total mess. The marble donated to us was in a bin, the blue stones were mixed in with the mud.

"It was very upsetting to see it like that. I thought it had been vandalised."

Photographs show figurines toppled over, a rose bush out of the ground, and the marble surround removed.

Ms Nicholas claims Bury Council, who maintain Ramsbottom Cemetery, later told her that “they needed to remove it to inter someone in an adjacent grave.”

The 48-year-old, who lives in Whittingham Drive, Ramsbottom, said: "I was told the council had tried to contact by ex-partner but he moved to Blackpool in 2017.

"I think they could have done more to try and find me — my name is on the grave — or they could have left a notice on the stone to explain what had happened, and they could have left my son’s grave in a better state, instead of us arriving to find a muddy puddle."

The mother-of-two added: "It could have been done with a little bit more compassion."

She said she intends to rebuild the grave and to return it "to its former glory".

The Bury Times has approached Bury Council for comment.