Woman jailed over damage to headstone and malicious messages to grieving family

A woman has been jailed for eight weeks at Bristol Magistrates’ Court today, over damage to a headstone at Westerleigh Crematorium.

Simona Julius, 25, of St George, had admitted criminal damage and two counts of malicious communications at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that Julius daubed white paint over the headstone of 22-year-old Liam Scarman overnight on 26th-27th November 2020. She also left an unpleasant note for his family and, after publicity about the incident, sent further offensive messages to named family members in Christmas cards.

She was also ordered to pay £500 compensation to the family and handed a three-year restraining order. District Judge Lynne Matthews described Julius’ actions as “perplexing” and “wicked” adding that the timing of the offences “struck at the very heart” of the family.

The crimes, just before the three-year anniversary of Liam’s death in December 2017, caused his family great distress and affected his grieving mother’s health.

In a personal statement to the court, Liam’s mother Sue Witt described how Julius’ actions “took over” family members’ lives and was all they could think and talk about.

She said: “Losing a child is the worst possible grief you could imagine. It has consumed my life. Having found out that somebody had damaged Liam’s grave just compounded all those emotions and undid the progress I had made in dealing with his death. I think people are wondering what kind of person Liam was, how horrible a person he must have been for somebody to damage his grave the way they did, when in reality everybody who knew him loved him. I never knew him to do anything nasty or horrible to anybody. I don’t understand why she did it.”

Simona Julius

Some of the notes were addressed to Liam’s father, Trevor Scarman, who said in his statement: “When I found out Liam’s headstone had been vandalised, I had a numb feeling that went through my body. My initial reaction was why? Why had someone damaged it? Why just Liam’s was targeted? How anyone can write such disgusting things about my son I just cannot believe. The physical damage has been repaired but the emotional damage will take far longer to repair. It’s like someone is sticking a knife in and twisting it. Our family are completely distraught. To commit an act of criminal damage like this along with vile notes addressed to me has left me feeling devastated.”

Investigating officer PC Kyle Maywood of the said: “I’m glad that we were able to identify the culprit and bring some relief to the family, but Julius has never answered the question of what motivated her to act as she did and cause such distress.

“I hope the sentence will help Liam’s family to put this behind them so they are able to remember him as their much-loved son and brother and not Julius’ hateful actions. I also hope the case gives other victims of disability hate crime the confidence to report incidents to us.”

PC Maywood added: “I would like to thank the members of the public who provided crucial information after seeing the appeals for information and calling in.”