AN APPEAL has gone out for help catching the vandals who toppled 19 gravestones in Prestongrange Parish Church.

Session clerk Ian Wallace urged anyone who knew who was behind the “mindless act of vandalism” to report them to police.

Writing on social media site Facebook, Mr Wallace said some of the headstones had stood for nearly 400 years.

He said: “Since the (year) 1600 people of Prestonpans have been laying there loved ones to rest in the parish church yard.

“Headstones that had marked the last resting place of ‘Panners’ for nearly 400 years desecrated by a mindless act of vandalism.

“The perpetrator/perpetrators must be known to someone in Prestonpans, punishing them will gain nothing but I feel strongly that whoever did this should be identified so that their friends, family and neighbours get to know the sort of person who would do this damage to the graves of people who could most likely be their ancestors and for what could only be ‘kicks’.” Mr Wallace said many of the stones weighed up to a quarter of a tonne so it was not the work of young children.

And he said he regularly received emails from people looking for their ancestors in the historic graveyard.

He said: “How do you tell someone their ancestor’s gravestone was destroyed?

Someone out there knows who did this. If you do know, why not tell the local police. I’m sure they would be grateful for your help.” Police Scotland also appealed for anyone who saw people acting suspiciously around the church to contact them.

The stones are believed to have been brought down between 1pm on Sunday, August 17 and 9am the following morning.