By Claire Marshal - Gazette Series
Just days after grieving families put their loved ones who died in the Severn bridge disaster to rest, fears have been raised that the shipwrecks holding their memories are being damaged.
The two barges that collided 50 years ago this week were seen being interfered with by a digger in the water two days after a plaque was unveiled in memory of the five men who died on them.
It has raised concerns that part of Gloucestershire’s maritime heritage is under threat with no legal protection to stop people destroying it.
The Arkendale H and the Wastdale H both still lay in the river at Purton after they sank on October 25, 1960.
A photo, taken by the Gazette, showed a large vessel with a digger attached called the Riparian, belonging to Fred Larkham, next to the two shipwrecks.
Mr Larkham, who previously owned the two barges but sold them over a year ago, said he recognised he had gone out at an insensitive time but had wanted to save some of the remaining parts of the ship.
He said that having taken a radio reporter out to the barges a few weeks ago he noticed that many items had been pulled off the wrecks and taken away.
"I felt very shocked to see it, someone had obviously been on the vessels and taken a number of things," said Mr Larkham.
Mr Larkham said he planned to offer the items he recovered to a local museum.
Paul Barnett, of the Friends of Purton, who has worked tirelessly over the years to get all the shipwrecks along the Severn near Sharpness designated by English Heritage, said he was "distraught" to hear the news.
"Just days ago I said to a group of grieving people that Gloucestershire does care about its heritage as we unveiled the plaque and now this happens.