'Inconsolable' family slam 'despicable' HS2 for tearing down daughter's memorial tree

Emily Cleary
·5 min read
The tanner family have been unable to locate Alanya's tree or memorial stone (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)
The tanner family have been unable to locate Alanya's tree or memorial stone (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)

The grieving parents of a child whose memorial tree was destroyed to make way for a high speed railway line have branded HS2 as ‘despicable’ and ‘brutal’.

Dean and Yvonne Tanner were shocked when they discovered that 11-year-old Alanya’s remembrance tree had been torn down by workers clearing the Wendover Woodlands memorial site in Buckinghamshire.

Mother-of-four Yvonne was left hysterical after she visited Alanya’s remembrance tree on the anniversary of her death, to find that it had been cut down and thrown onto a pile of discarded logs.

Her daughter’s memorial stone was also missing.

Yvonne, 46, contacted her niece Beth Mahoney for help. Beth said: “She told me of her horror when she turned up with her partner and was faced with a huge fence sectioning off part of the memorial garden, with all of the trees in this section, including her daughter’s tree, having been cut down.

Yvonne told Beth: “The trees were carelessly thrown into a pile.

“I was absolutely hysterical, all I wanted was to get to her tree and find her memorial stone. My partner and I managed to get through the fenced-off section, but we found that not only had my daughter’s tree been cut down, but the stone was also gone. I knew her tree was gone, but I just wanted to find the one thing I had left.”

Alanya Tanner was just 11 when she died of complications following a chest infection (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)
Alanya Tanner was just 11 when she died of complications following a chest infection (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)

Yvonne then had to break the news to her children, Lowen, 16, Chiara, 20, and Yesenia, 25.

Chiara said: “When I found out that HS2 had ripped down my sister’s tree, I was inconsolable. The memorial site was somewhere we could go to feel close to Alanya and now that has been taken away from us in the most brutal way possible.”

Alanya’s father Dean Tanner, 52, told Yahoo News UK: “It really is the lowest of the low to desecrate a memorial to dead children. Of all the things that anyone could do, that’s the very worst.”

“If HS2 needed to use the site, they could have dealt with the matter sensitively, making sure that the families of the children whose memorials were there, were given the opportunity to dig up their trees and remove their memorial stones.”

Since finding out about their sister’s memorial, Dean said he has noticed that his children have been struggling to cope with the impact.

His 11-year-old daughter, Miya, has been left ‘devastated’ by the loss of her sister’s memorial, while children’s nurse Yesenia has been signed off work with stress.

Alanya's family visited her memorial tree to celebrate her birthday (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)
Alanya's family regularly visited her memorial tree. This year they took balloons to celebrate what would have been her 22nd birthday (Beth Mahoney/Yvonne Tanner)

The family are unsure whether the parents of the other children who also had memorials in the garden, some of which had ashes inturned within them, have been informed.

Yvonne said: “I would always go up there. It was a quiet retreat on the top of the hill overlooking the countryside around Wendover. Often I would go with the children, sometimes I went alone, and other times I went with close friends. We would take her a balloon, plant bulbs around the oak tree, or wrap a garland around the mesh supporting the sapling.”

“When the tree was first planted we didn’t think it would survive, but that English oak proved to be hardy. It was surviving and thriving. I was so looking forward to seeing it again.”

The family have called for an investigation into the matter.

Yvonne said: “I just can’t understand how heartless they have been. What HS2 have done is a travesty. It’s despicable to not consider what they were doing.”

“It wasn’t just a bunch of trees, they represented children who had been taken too soon. Someone needs to be held accountable for what was done here.

“My heart is broken after what I experienced. I felt like I have now lost her all over again.”

The London to Birmingham section of the HS2 route passes through the Buckinghamshire countryside and has faced significant controversy over its escalating costs and environmental impact.

While the memorial woodland is not directly in the path of the new route line, it is understood the space is needed to divert utility services and to store tools and equipment.

The charity that manages the site, Rennie Grove Hospice Care, is said to only have been told that HS2 would take possession of the site, and not that the trees would be cut down.

Staff at the charity are understood to have ‘tried tirelessly to contact HS2’ to discuss other possible sites for the work, which did not involve removing the memorials. However, HS2 were ‘unhelpful and unwilling’ to discuss other solutions.

A spokesperson for HS2 Ltd told Yahoo News UK: “In order to build Wendover’s green tunnel, which will reduce noise and disruption for the surrounding community, we unfortunately need to clear a section of woodland planted 10 years ago by the Rennie Grove Hospice, which has since relocated out of the town.

“The fact that a small area of the site would be affected was reported by local media in May 2019, and we informed the Hospice and the landowner a month in advance of works starting, providing them with time to notify the families of the deceased who may have wanted to remove any items.”

Coronavirus: what happened today
Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter