Police are investigating a mysterious chainsaw massacre – after a phantom lumberjack cut down scores of trees along a picturesque stretch of the River Thames.
Officers are stumped in their hunt for the culprit, who has struck up to 30 times over the past week-and-a-half in and around leafy Walton-on-Thames in Surrey.
Extra police patrols have now been set up to get to the root of the problem, and stop the chopper from slicing through trees with a powerful chainsaw.
The destruction has seen heavy branches strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the water.
Local residents don’t know why the person responsible is cutting down the ash, oak and elm trees but they may drive a small red car and are operating under the cover of darkness over a two-mile stretch between Walton and neighbouring Weybridge.
In a joint statement by Surrey Police and Elmbridge Council, the authorities today blasted the ‘mindless damage’ as they asked anyone with any information – including possible sightings or CCTV footage – to contact them.
The statement, issued to MailOnline, read: ‘On Sunday 28 March it was reported that a number of trees were cut down by chainsaw around the Cowey Sale area of Walton-on-Thames.
‘Since that time, Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council have identified at least 20 other instances of trees being cut down in Walton and Weybridge. This is concerning to both Surrey Police, Elmbridge Borough Council and residents. ‘Surrey Police have issued appeals for information and would like to thank residents for passing on information and sharing these posts.
‘We would like to reassure the local community that we are following up all relevant information and the investigation remains ongoing. Patrols will also be carried out in the areas which have been targeted.’
Elmbridge Borough Commander Inspector Bert Dean, of Surrey Police, added: ‘I do not underestimate the impact this mindless damage has on the local community as well as the risk it has posed to motorists by obstructing roads.
‘We are looking at every opportunity to identify who is responsible for this and will continue to work closely with Elmbridge Borough Council to tackle this issue.
‘If you have any information which could help, and you have not already got in touch, please contact us.’
Local residents Anthony Cilia has photographed some of the damage to the trees.
The images show several large trees felled and left either blocking a river tow path or submerged in the Thames.
The trunk on one particular tree had been sliced into several pieces.
Mr Cilia, a retired kitchen-fitter from Weybridge, said: ‘For some days along the Thames towpath between Walton and Weybridge there has been a phantom chainsaw vandal cutting down trees in the early hours.
‘Why this person is doing it is beyond me. There are plenty of wooded areas nearby to go to but for some reason they are choosing to do it in a public area on the banks of the river.
‘Not only is it a blight on an area the council has spent several millions of pounds on improving but more importantly it’s dangerous.
‘Several of the trees have been downed on to the road running past the Thames by Walton Bridge, which has very little light in the evenings so could cause a car accident.
‘Other trees have been cut down over the pathway blocking pedestrian access, which is another potential hazard, or left submerged in the Thames in the way of boats that use that particular stretch of water.
‘None of the trees look to have been chopped up for firewood, could it be someone with a grudge against the council? I don’t know, perhaps this person has mental health issues.
‘What is worrying is that whoever they are, they have access to a chainsaw, powerful enough to slice through a 60cm tree trunk.’
Grandfather-of-two Mr Cilia said that four trees were cut down over Tuesday night, one blocking the road.
He added: ‘I heard the buzzing of a chainsaw early this morning and raced out to confront the culprit but it was actually council workers slicing up one of the trees which had been felled overnight so they could remove it.
‘The police and council have been notified by many residents but whoever it is is still out there.’
Another local resident, Christine Elmer, said that trees which had been grown specially in memory of loved ones who had died had also been targeted.
She tweeted: ‘Really important if anyone has any info on who is going around our town and wider Borough cutting down trees, including Memorial trees, to get in touch with the Elmbridge Police.’
Hundreds of frustrated residents have set up a Facebook group to report the incidents, with volunteers also monitoring spots near the river after dark, where several of the trees have been chopped down.
A message on the Elmbridge Tree Patrol group reads: ‘As you all know there’s a maniac going around Weybridge, Walton on Thames and Cobham chopping down trees ruining the environment, eco system, habitats and making everyone upset.
‘I have set up this group so we can all as a community volunteer to patrol the area at night to try and hunt down and video record this lunatic.
‘WE MUST SAVE OUR COMMUNITY!’
Source: Thanks msn.com