Appeal to vandals who trashed Conor’s bench

September 07 2015

THE SISTER of a teenager who died in a moped accident has issued an emotional appeal to vandals who have targeted a bench set up in her brother’s memory.

THE SISTER of a teenager who died in a moped accident has issued an emotional appeal to vandals who have targeted a bench set up in her brother’s memory.
Kayleigh Hall and her family have been left devastated after photos and cards were ripped from the memorial bench in King George V Playing Fields in Downend.
Burn marks have also been left near the bench, evidence the vandals had been trying to light fires, and litter left strewn around, despite there being a bin nearby.
The bench was placed in the park in memory of former Downend School pupil Conor Hall who died in June 2011 after his moped crashed in Charlton Road, Kingswood. The 16-year-old was taken to Frenchay Hospital and put on a life support machine but died five days later.
It was discovered that Conor hadn’t clipped up the strap of his motorcycle helmet - and that if he had fastened it, it may have saved his life. Following his death, his family launched Clip Up For Conor, an organisation which fundraises for good causes and highlights the importance of making sure helmets are both worn and fastened.
Kayleigh, 23, said she wanted to appeal to the trouble makers to stop.
“We want to get the message out there that whoever is doing this, stop. If you are going to use the bench, that’s fine, but treat it with respect because it’s for other people to use as well.”
Kayleigh, a former John Cabot student, said the vandals had left the area around the bench had been left in a mess.
“We went up there at the start of the school holidays and noticed things were missing but didn’t think anything of it because things like that had happened before.
“But we went up again and noticed flowers had been snapped and cards which we placed there on the fourth anniversary of his death in June had been ripped off. One was dumped into some water and the other is still missing. We had two photos on the bench, one was a family picture and the other was one of Conor, and they had both been ripped.
“The area was trashed with litter. Every time we went there we would have to pick it all up. There was broken glass and cans which had been ripped in half and left jagged and sharp. If children or animals were around the bench they would have hurt themselves.”
The family, who live in Fishponds, took to social media to help spread the word.
“We put a notice on Facebook to say we don’t want people vandalising the bench because it was put there for everyone to use not just Conor’s friends and his family.”
To add insult to injury the family were told that a gang who had been seen by the bench had been riding motorcycles without helmets -  one of the issues that the family had worked so hard to stamp out with their campaign.
“That was quite distressing to us,” said Kayleigh.
“The whole thing we do with Clip Up For Conor is to raise awareness about mopeds and safety. To ride without a helmet around a bench which was put in place for someone who has lost their life for not wearing their helmet correctly is devastating. It’s not only disrespectful to us; it’s disrespectful to Conor.
“They might think they are invincible and it’ll never happen to them. They might think it’s cool to ride around with no helmet but actually it’s not. They are putting their lives at risk. They need to put themselves in our position and think what would their families be thinking if it was them on a life support machine like Conor.”
When the family returned to the bench to check on the vandalism they noticed there had been patches of fire that had been lit around it.
“There were fire-lighters and you could see someone had been trying to light a fire but we don’t believe anyone was purposely trying to set fire to the bench,” said Kayleigh.
“We just don’t want them to do it near the bench as it’s highly inflammable because it’s coated with creosote. If the fire had caught onto the bench, it would have gone up in flames.”
Realising things were getting out of hand, Kayleigh and her family contacted the police.
“It was when we started to see the fires around the bench that we started to get worried. Donations from Conor’s friends and from the public have gone into buying the bench and if it goes up in flames we won’t be able to replace it.
“The police are doing extra patrols and, touch wood, we haven’t had anyone get in touch in the last few weeks to report any more vandalism so I hope it’s now stopped.”
The incidents have provoked an outcry from supporters of Clip Up For Conor, many of whom took to the campaign’s Facebook page to show their disgust.
“Some people are so sick nowadays...I am so sorry to hear this,” wrote one woman.
Another said: “I can’t quite understand why anyone would be so mindless and cruel.”
Kayleigh said she believes the people responsible knew the bench was a memorial for Conor.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they knew what the bench was for. We have a Clip Up For Conor poster on the bench which promotes what we do and Conor was quite well known in the Downend area. If they do, it’s even more hurtful.”
Kayleigh said they chose a bench in the shape of a smile because Conor was always smiling.
The family now hope to sand the bench down and replace the cresote with a non-flammable paint.