Surrey police search for ‘phantom lumberjack’ after dozens of trees chopped down with chainsaw

Police are investigating a mysterious chainsaw massacre – after a phantom lumberjack cut down dozens 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 ten days in leafy Walton in Surrey. 

Extra police patrols have now been set up to get to the root of the problem, and stop whoever is felling the trees with a chainsaw under cover of darkness along a two-mile stretch between the market town and neighbouring Weybridge.

The destruction has seen heavy branches strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the water.

Local residents say they don’t know why the mystery chopper is targeting the ash, oak and elm trees, but believe the culprit may drive a small, red car.

In a joint statement, Surrey Police and Elmbridge Council today blasted the ‘mindless damage’ and appealed for anyone with any information – including sightings or CCTV footage – to contact them. 

Police are investigating a mysterious chainsaw massacre – after a phantom chopper cut down scores of trees in leafy Surrey

Officers are stumped in their hunt for the culprit, who has felled at least 20 trees in Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames over the last fortnight

Officers are stumped in their hunt for the culprit, who has felled at least 20 trees in Weybridge and Walton-on-Thames over the last fortnight

A joint statement from Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council said it was 'following up all relevant information' and continued to investigate, while launching patrols in the areas which have been targeted

A joint statement from Surrey Police and Elmbridge Borough Council said it was ‘following up all relevant information’ and continued to investigate, while launching patrols in the areas which have been targeted

Extra police patrols have now been set up to stop the chopper from slicing through trees with a powerful chainsaw and leaving heavy branches strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the Thames

Extra police patrols have now been set up to stop the chopper from slicing through trees with a powerful chainsaw and leaving heavy branches strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the Thames

One frustrated local said: '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'

One frustrated local said: ‘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’

The phantom lumberjack has made their way through a number of trees along the River Thames in Surrey over recent days

The phantom lumberjack has made their way through a number of trees along the River Thames in Surrey over recent days

A woman stands puzzled, with her hands on her hips, at the scene of one of the attacks in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey

A woman stands puzzled, with her hands on her hips, at the scene of one of the attacks in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey

A chainsaw was reportedly used to cut down the trees near the River Thames in leafy Walton in Surrey over the last few days

A chainsaw was reportedly used to cut down the trees near the River Thames in leafy Walton in Surrey over the last few days

The picturesque riverside location in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey where dozens of trees have been chopped down

The picturesque riverside location in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey where dozens of trees have been chopped down

The statement 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, we 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.’

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

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

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

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

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 jogger looks on at the modest stump that remains after a tree was chopped down with a chainsaw in leafy Surrey

A jogger looks on at the modest stump that remains after a tree was chopped down with a chainsaw in leafy Surrey

Heavy branches have been left strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the Thames throughout this month

Heavy branches have been left strewn over the road, obstructing traffic, and dumped in the Thames throughout this month

Two women walk past the scene of one of the mysterious tree attacks, which has left branches floating in the river

Two women walk past the scene of one of the mysterious tree attacks, which has left branches floating in the river

The phantom lumberjack has caused carnage with a series of attacks on a picturesque stretch of land near the Thames

The phantom lumberjack has caused carnage with a series of attacks on a picturesque stretch of land near the Thames

Two frustrated locals look at the devastation caused by the phantom lumberjack on the riverbank in a leafy part of Surrey

Two frustrated locals look at the devastation caused by the phantom lumberjack on the riverbank in a leafy part of Surrey

One local said: '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'

One local said: ‘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’

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'

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’

A jogger runs past the scene of one of the attacks by the phantom lumberjack in picturesque Walton-on-Thames in Surrey

A jogger runs past the scene of one of the attacks by the phantom lumberjack in picturesque Walton-on-Thames in Surrey

A cyclist rides past the devastation caused by the phantom lumberjack on the riverbank in a leafy part of Surrey this afternoon

A cyclist rides past the devastation caused by the phantom lumberjack on the riverbank in a leafy part of Surrey this afternoon

One local said: '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'

One local said: ‘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’

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.’

Five trees were felled on Tuesday night directly outside Elmbridge Canoe Club in Weybridge, with at least three of them snapped down into the Thames, potentially posing a hazard to canoeists. 

An eyewitness reported seeing two men acting suspiciously near the trees at about 8.30pm. 

Dwayne Morton, a coach at the canoe club, said: ‘The chairman has been informed and is now reviewing CCTV to see if the suspect or suspects have been caught on camera. 

‘One of the parents who was walking past yesterday evening has said that she saw two men standing outside the club looking suspicious. 

‘The trees that have been cut down are pretty hefty so it’s obviously taken some work to fell them. 

‘Some of the trees have been sliced through and have snapped forward into the water, which is a bit of a worry if they break loose and cause problems for boats. 

‘It seems a bit senseless to me, what purpose does it serve?’ 

Local resident Moya Tytherleigh fumed: ‘It’s disgusting. Those trees could have had birds nesting them, it’s devastating to nature. 

‘What has possessed someone to do it? I read on a local Facebook forum that there is a tree-felling task on the game Fortnight so maybe it’s some bored gamers cutting down trees in real life as some sort of lockdown dare or prank. Who knows?’ 

The majority of the trees have been taken down by a stretch of River Thames between Walton and Weybridge.

Walton Lane, a road next to the river path, had to be closed yesterday morning while council workers got rid of a tree that had been cut down across the road.

Roofer Benny Shaw, who lives on a canal boat between Walton and Weybridge, pointed to another tree which had been recently felled in the river.

He said: ‘It was a healthy tree so I knew it hadn’t been done professionally. Plus who leaves the tree submerged in the water like that? It could hamper the canoeists and boats that use this stretch of water.

‘I’ve not seen or heard anything but if I did I’d grab their bloody chainsaw and throw it in.’

Ivan Lawler, 54, chairman of Elmbridge Canoe Club, where five trees were cut down overnight on Tuesday, said: ‘We’ve looked at the CCTV but unfortunately the cameras don’t cover the area where the trees were brought down. 

‘Whoever is doing it, though, has to be caught because their actions are putting people who use the river at risk. 

‘Some of the trees have been felled into the water and it’s a hazard, particularly for rowers if they are facing the other way and can’t see what’s coming up behind them. 

‘We had a litter pick last week, in which a group of club members and locals went round and picked up rubbish from the path, and crisp packets and sweet wrappers which had blown into tree branches. 

‘Then someone comes along and does this – it’s a real kick in the teeth.’ 

Local teachers Natasha Blackburn, 24, and 29-year-old Tosh Demirci walked past one of the felled trees by Walton Lane bridge this afternoon. Natasha said: ‘I think it’s absolutely disgusting, just destroying nature like that. 

‘It’s made me really cross because I walk this path all the time and the trees and foliage make it such a nice, peaceful spot. But walking towards Weybridge from Walton today, the path is littered with destroyed trees. 

‘Apparently the person behind it has a red car and that has been sighted around the area recently. You have to hope the police have him or her in their sights.’ 

Tosh added: ‘I know some of the children at the school where we teach walk this same route and they’d find this vandalism and damage every bit as upsetting as we do. 

‘The children are taught to look after the area where they live – and this just flies in the face of that.’ 

Retired Charles Whetmore, 60, stopped at another sawn-down tree while walking the river path and shook his head disapprovingly. He said: ‘It’s sickening at the end of the day. 

‘A tree like that would’ve taken at least 40 years to grow but it was probably cut-down in minutes and for what purpose? 

‘Why would someone do this? Do they have some sort of vendetta? Are they unwell? The latter is a worry because they obviously have access to something like a chainsaw. 

‘I’ve seen that some trees nearer to Walton Marina have been cut down that had plaques or floral tributes dedicated to people’s deceased loved ones attached. 

‘There were a couple of trees near there that had been cut down last week and five-foot tall stumps were all that remained. 

‘I saw that the council had put notices on the stumps warning people that the trees had been cut down illegally. 

‘I walked past the following day and the vandal had sliced through the stumps so the notices were left on the ground. It was clearly some kind of taunt.’ 

Hundreds have joined 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!’ 

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