CULPRITS behind a spate of vandalism' in a Burnley cemetery have been unmasked after weeks of mysterious attacks on graves.

But instead of gangs of yobs running riot in the graveyard park rangers were amazed when they discovered the true identity of the vandals behind the damage - groups of hungry rabbits.

Rangers were left baffled by the damage, which was brought to light after visitors to the cemetery in Rossendale Road complained of flowers left on graves being disturbed and the heads removed.

In response Burnley Council officers stepped up ranger patrols of the cemetery grounds in a bid to catch the culprits - only to find peckish rabbits have been busily feasting on the flowers. However council chiefs have said their hands are tied when it comes to tackling the problem.

Simon Goff, the council's head of green space and amenities, said: "Originally we thought we had a problem with vandalism and that yobs were coming into the cemetery and causing the damage, but last Sunday a ranger was on patrol in the cemetery and saw a rabbit eating flower heads from some carnations which had been placed on a grave.

"A number of people also contacted us to report that the damage to flowers is being caused by rabbits.

"We had put on extra patrols after people pointed out the damage but a bit of detective work soon uncovered the real culprits.

"Controlling rabbit populations in the cemetery would be difficult as they are coming out of the adjoining woodland.

"However, we are hopeful that this problem may just be a seasonal one as food supplies in the wood are in quite short supply at the moment.

"We hope that as the warmer weather comes and that as the grass begins to grow and plants come into leaf the problem may reduce and the rabbits might stay in the woods for their lunch."