The reason that some headstones have suddenly been left flat on the ground has been explained.

Multiple people noticed that staff from Idverde - who maintain the site - had been pushing down some, but not all, of the memorials in the Merton and Sutton cemetery.

This caused distress to some who thought that staff may be targetting certain sites in racially motivated attacks.

But a spokeswoman for Idverde has now said the reason for this is because the company is carrying out a Memorial Safety Programme as part of its contracted works to Sutton and Merton Councils.

"The ‘inspection and make safe’ is required to prevent injury in the event of a grave stone falling on a person and is being undertaken by our certificated trained and caring staff," the spokeswoman said.

"In the event that a memorial stone is found to pose a risk of injury to those visiting the cemetery the memorial will be laid down to prevent it falling, and attempts will be made to contact the last known owner of the grave plot.

"This work is part of a rolling programme of inspections, with over 2000 memorials in other parts of the cemetery having already been tested prior to inspections commencing in the Muslim section.

“We are extremely sorry this work has caused distress, but please rest assured that this work is necessary to ensure the safety of those visiting and working in the cemetery, and that the inspections and any movement of memorial stones is carried out in a sensitive and respectful manner.”