16-Year-Old Arrested After Felling of Iconic Tree

Sycamore Gap tree in Northumberland, England, is cut down, and a teen is in custody
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2023 10:15 AM CDT
Updated Sep 28, 2023 11:19 AM CDT
A Nation Grieves Over Felling of Iconic Tree
Police officers check out the tree at Sycamore Gap, next to Hadrian's Wall, in Northumberland, England, on Thursday.   (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
UPDATE Sep 28, 2023 11:19 AM CDT

Authorities in northern England have arrested a 16-year-old boy who is accused of cutting down a world-famous tree, reports the BBC. The unidentified teen is being held on suspicion of criminal damage over the felling of the tree near Hadrian's Wall, a landmark from the Roman Empire, per the AP. "You can forgive nature doing it, but you can't forgive that," says Alison Hawkins, who was one of the first people to see the damage Thursday morning.

Sep 28, 2023 10:15 AM CDT

English police are investigating a murder ... of a tree. The beloved Sycamore Gap tree stood in a natural dip between rolling cliffs next to Hadrian's Wall, a former defensive fortification, in Northumberland National Park. The BBC's Mark Denten describes it as "one of the most iconic trees in Britain, and probably the world." Thought to be several hundred years old, the sycamore featured in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and was named England's tree of the year in 2016. National Park Authority officials, who found the tree lying next to its sheared stump on Thursday morning, say it was "deliberately felled" sometime overnight. Photos suggest it was brought down with a chainsaw, per the Guardian.

"I'm weeping" at the loss of "an emblem," Anna Charlton, who runs a tourist business within the park, tells the BBC. "This isn't just vandalism, it's an attack on nature." Photographer Ian Sproat says his "heart was ripped out" when he heard the news. "I keep asking myself, 'Why would anyone do this?'" says the 42-year-old, likening the tree to a national monument. "They have just destroyed a part of the North East." North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll describes the tree as "part of our collective soul." "People have had their ashes scattered there. People have proposed there. I've picnicked there with my wife and kids," he says.

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Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness says she, too, is "devastated" at the loss of the "iconic North East landmark," apparently felled as a result of "a deliberate act of vandalism." Police Superintendent Kevin Waring says authorities will "consider every tactic at our disposal" to get to the bottom of what happened. But "even if police did catch the perpetrator, the tree is still gone," says Hexham MP Guy Opperman. As the investigation gets underway, the National Park Authority is asking people to keep away from the site, though some grieving visitors have already arrived. The BBC shares a photo of a woman who appears to have left a single flower where the tree once cast shade. (Read more vandalism stories.)

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