VANDALS who damaged life-saving equipment next to a lake where a man drowned last year have been called “moronic” for putting lives at risk.

Two buoyancy aids at Witney Lake, are believed to have been ripped apart by partying youngsters on Saturday night.

It comes after James Bartlett, 37, was found dead in the lake by police divers last August after going for a swim.

Witney Town Council facilities manager Claire Swan said: “It could come at a huge cost to human lives if a child falls into a lake and there’s no buoyancy aid.

“We think they are completely unusable.

“That lake worries me to death because it has such a strong undercurrent and it’s not safe for swimming. This type of behaviour is stupid and moronic.”

The council believes the buoyancy aids, costing £187 each, were damaged by youngsters on Saturday night.

Town ranger Jim Casson spotted the aids attached to a wooden raft in the lake, which is between Ducklington and the A40, and reported it to the council.

Since starting the job at the end of April, he has helped to draw attention to antisocial behaviour in the town.

In May the council received reports of 10 incidents from Mr Casson and residents, while in the first weekend of June there were seven incidents.

Reports included bollards and bird feeders in Tower Hill Cemetery being stolen, broken glass next to the lake, benches in Raleigh Park play area damaged and a football pitch in The Leys damaged by barbecues.

The council estimates the two months of damage cost up to £3,000 to repair, nearly half what the council spent £6,700 on repairs caused by vandalism in six months between May and November last year.

Mr Casson said at least half a dozen trees in The Leys recreation ground, King George V playing field and Burwell Estate could be killed after bark was extensively stripped from them.

He said: “It’s a very needless kind of action and makes you wonder why people do such things.

“We thought it might be down to animals when I first saw it but it’s happened in a few different places.”

The latest bout of antisocial behaviour comes after thieves stole flowers planted by the Witney Trefoil Guild at Tower Hill Cemetery to commemorate the centenery of the First World War.

Town councillor Chrissie Curry said she was “absolutely appalled” at the level of vandalism.

She said: “What kind of mindset would make someone go and desecrate a cemetery? It’s reaching a new low.

“The money could be spent on new things for the town like play areas but instead it is being used for repairs and replacements because of mindless vandalism.”

Our top stories: