A 16-year-old boy was arrested Thursday after one of the world’s most beloved trees was chopped down the night before in what police said was an apparent act of vandalism.
The iconic Sycamore Gap Tree at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, England, played a central role in the 1991 Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and was named Tree of the Year in 2016 by the Woodland Trust. Before it was unceremoniously razed by an unknown party apparently wielding a chainsaw, the tree, known to many as “Robin Hood’s Tree,” was one of the most photographed trees in the U.K.
Northumbria Police said they had taken the boy into custody on suspicion of causing criminal damage. “This is a world-renowned landmark and the events of today have caused significant shock, sadness and anger throughout the local community and beyond,” Superintendent Kevin Waring said, according to The Guardian.
In a statement, the Northumberland National Park Authority said it “can confirm that sadly, the famous tree at Sycamore Gap has come down over night. We have reason to believe it has been deliberately felled.” Officials are asking the public “not to visit the site at this time whilst we work with our partners to identify what has happened and to make the site safe.”
Sycamore Gap has already been updated to 'Sycamore Stump' on Google, which seems both very sad (after 300 years of life), but also unnecessary, as the space is now a 'gap' where a Sycamore tree once stood. pic.twitter.com/YqqceJ4V1Y
— dan barker (@danbarker) September 28, 2023
Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson called it “a very sad day for our county” and said he was having a hard time expressing how shocked and hurt he felt at the news.
“The Sycamore Gap tree has stood for centuries and is known throughout the world,” Sanderson said. “For it to be felled in what is clearly a deliberate act is absolutely terrible, and I’m sure I speak for everyone in the county when I say how upset I was when I heard the news this morning.”
Describing the incident as “appalling,” Conservative MP Guy Opperman said this was “unquestionably a criminal act,” noting that he was just at Sycamore Gap 10 days ago.
“My heart was ripped out,” photographer Ian Sproat told the BBC.
The tree had been “an important and iconic feature in the landscape for nearly 200 years,” National Trust General manager Andrew Poad told the broadcaster. Northumbria Police said an investigation has been opened.
“As a force, [we] are fully committed to finding out the full circumstances and we will consider every tactic at our disposal in this investigation,” Superintendent Kevin Waring said. “Anyone found to have been responsible for this damage, which we believe to be a deliberate act of vandalism, can expect to be dealt with swiftly and appropriately.”
Nevertheless, Opperman said, “[E]ven if police did catch the perpetrator, the tree is still gone.”